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The Senator Gravel Edition 

critical assays 
Edited by Noam Chomsky 

and Howard Zinn 
and an Index to 
Volumes One -Four 


Gravel Edition / Pentagon Papers / Volume V 

The Senator Gravel ELdition 

The Pentagon Papers 

Critical Essays Edited by 

Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn 

and an Index to 
Volumes One-Four 

Volume V 

Beacon Press Boston 

The essays in this volume are copyright © 1972 by 
the authors, individually; indices and glossary are 
copyright © 1972 by Beacon Press. 
Library of Congress catalog card number: 75-178049 
International Standard Book Number: 0-8070-0522-3 (hardcover) 

0-8070-0523-1 (paperback) 
Beacon Press books are published under the auspices 
of the Unitarian Universalist Association 

Published simultaneously in Canada by Saunders of Toronto, Ltd. 
All rights reserved 

Printed in the United States of America 

Contents of the Gravel Edition, Volumes I-IV 


Introduction by U.S. Senator Mike Gravel 
Letter of Transmittal by Leslie H. Gelb 

1. Background to the Conflict, 1940-1950 

2. U.S. Involvement in the Franco-Viet Minh War, 1950-1954 

3. The Geneva Conference, May-July, 1954 

4. U.S. and France in Indochina, 1950-1956 

5. Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam, 1954-1960 


1. The Kennedy Commitments and Programs, 1961 

2. The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963 

3. Phased Withdrawal of U.S. Forces, 1962-1964 

4. The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, May-November 1963 

5. US-GVN Relations, 1964-1967 

6. The Advisory Build-up, 1961-1967 

7. Re-emphasis on Pacification: 1965-1967 


1. U.S. Programs in South Vietnam, November 1963-April 1965 

2. Military Pressures Against North Vietnam, February 1964-January 1965 

3. The Air War in North Vietnam: Rolling Thunder Begins, February-June, 1965 

4. American Troops Enter the Ground War, March-July, 1965 


1. The Air War in North Vietnam, 1965-1968 

2. U.S. Ground Strategy and Force Deployments, 1965-1968 

[At the end of each volume is a collection of documents, a section entitled 
"Justification of the War — Public Statements," and a Glossary] 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 

Contents of Volume V 

Editors' Preface ix 

Notes on the Contributors xi 

1. The American Goals in Vietnam by Gabriel Kolko 1 

2. Business Ideology and Foreign Policy: The National 
Security Council and Vietnam by Richard B. Du Boff 16 

3. A Vietnamese Viewpoint by Truong Buu Lam 32 

4. The Media and the Message by James Aronson 41 

5. The Receiving End by Wilfred Burchett 60 

6. Ideology and Society: The Pentagon Papers and 

North Vietnam by Gerard Chaliand 82 

7. "Tell Your Friends that We're People" by Don Luce 91 

8. The Superdomino in Postwar Asia: Japan in and out 

of the Pentagon Papers by John W. Dower 101 

9. The Last Line of Defense by Nina S. Adams 143 

10. "Supporting" the French in Indochina? by Philippe 
Devillers 159 

1 1 . The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 

by Noam Chomsky 179 

12. The Rise and Fall of "Counterinsurgency": 1961- 

1964 by David G. Marr 202 

13. Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon 

Papers by Peter Dale Scott 21 1 

viii Contents of Volume V . ' 

14. The Pentagon Papers and the United States 
Involvement in Laos by Walt Haney 248 

15. Beyond the Pentagon Papers: The Pathology of 

Power by Fredric Branfman 294 

A Note on the Three Editions of the Pentagon Papers 314 
The Tonkin Gulf Narrative and Resolutions 320 

ik ik ik 


[The indices and glossary cover 
The Senator Gravel Edition, Volumes I-IV.] 

Name Index 
Subject Index 



Editors' Preface 

The documentary history of American policy in Vietnam compiled by research- 
ers for the Department of Defense, known now as the Pentagon Papers, became 
public property in 1971 against the wishes of the United States government. This 
seems only proper when we consider that for seven years this government has 
been carrying on a war of annihilation in Indochina against the wishes of the 
people there, and now against the wishes of the American people, too. Those who 
made the Pentagon Papers public have laid out for general scrutiny the story of 
American war policy and have exposed the coldness of mind, the meanness of 
spirit, behind that policy. 

As a sign that this country, born with thrilling phrases about freedom, has not 
been truly free, there was peril for those who informed the American people of 
the decisions that sent their sons to war. The New York Times was brought into 
court by the government, and while a Supreme Court decision saved it from an 
injunction to prevent publication, the possibility of later prosecution was left 
open. Such prosecution has indeed begun of Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo. 
It was they who defied the doctrine of secrecy, showing that true patriotism which 
asks dedication not to one's government, but to one's country and countrymen. 

Beacon Press, not nearly so wealthy or huge an enterprise as the New York 
Times, had the audacity to print the bulk of the Pentagon Papers, those which 
Senator Mike Gravel had in his possession and which he began to read into the 
record one dramatic night in Washington in the summer of 1971. Four massive 
volumes were required for this: a mountain of information for scholars and citi- 
zens. The volumes contain a thousand pages of documents, three thousand pages 
of narrative, and two hundred pages of public statements by government officials 
trying to explain American involvement in Vietnam. 

Those of us who began to explore these pages soon realized that something 
more was needed. An index, of course, as a guide through the mass of material; 
and it has been provided here in this volume. But even more important, we could 
not leave the readers of the four volumes with the commentary of the Pentagon 
analysts as the last word. These analysts were all people who were working for 
the military bureaucracy — hardly independent researchers. Furthermore, they 
were operating under the constraints of a government harassed by the antiwar 
movement, watching the growing peace sentiments of the American population, 
and sensitive to any possible hint of criticism. And these researchers were writ- 
ing their report for one of the engineers of the war — Secretary of Defense 
Robert McNamara. 

Under these circumstances, it is not surprising to find that with all the weight 
of thousands of pages, there are serious omissions in the story, and also gross 
distortions. "Lies and lacunae" is how the two of us and Arnold Tovell of Beacon 
Press summarized the insufficiency of the Pentagon Papers, as we discussed them 
one evening. This volume of essays is the result of that assessment. 

We decided to ask men and women who have devoted much of their lives to 
the Indochina war during these past years to read through the four volumes, and 
to comment on them. All the people we asked were critics of the war, and we 

X Editors' Preface 

feel no apologies are needed for this deliberate bias: four thousand pages from 
the Department of Defense are enough from the side of the government. As the 
volumes of the Gravel edition came off the press, we flew them to our authors, 
in New Hampshire, in California, in Paris, in Washington, D.C., and many 
other places — and then the essays began coming in. 

A number of the commentators have spent years in Vietnam or Laos, as jour- 
nalists, as scholars, or as field workers in the countryside. Others have written 
extensively about the war in Vietnam in books and articles. Most of the writers 
are Americans, but one is a Vietnamese and several are French, because we 
wanted to include the viewpoint of these people who have felt and suffered most 
from the policies of the United States, as well as to draw upon the prior French 
experience with the anticolonial revolution in Indochina. And, as we anticipated, 
some of those invited to contribute essays, including a number of Southeast 
Asians, devoted their time in this spring of 1972 to acting against the war, not 

We hope the essays will illuminate for the reader what is obscure in the 
Pentagon Papers, will suggest what is missing in the official story, will bring for- 
ward what is important and might be overlooked. Most of all, we hope they 
supply what the government documents lack, some sense of the human conse- 
quences of this war, so that now Americans will devote time and energy to 
stopping the unforgivable American assault on the land and people of South- 
east Asia. 

Noam Chomsky 
Howard Zinn 

May 5, 7972 


Notes on Contributors 

Nina S. Adams and her family have been living in Paris doing research this year 
and expect to move to Hong Kong in the near future. She edited, with Alfred 
McCoy, Laos: War and Revolution, which was published in 1970. 

James Aronson was a founder and for many years editor of the radical news- 
weekly National Guardian, which he left in 1967 for a career in writing and 
teaching. He is the author of The Press and the Cold War and Deadline for the 

Fredric Branfman is the director of Project Air War in Washington, D.C. He was 
in Laos from 1967 to 1971 with International Voluntary Services and as a free- 
lance journalist. Mr. Branfman studied at the University of Chicago and at 

Wilfred Burchett, born in Australia, has traveled throughout the world as a jour- 
nalist for the Daily Express, the London Times, Le Soir, L'Humanite, the London 
Daily Worker, the Christian Science Monitor, the Toronto Star, and other news- 
papers. He was in Indochina at the beginning of the battle of Dien Bien Phu and 
has been a close observer of the war in Indochina for many years. 

Gerard Chaliand is a French writer specializing in national liberation movements 
in the third world. His book Peasants of North Vietnam was written as the re- 
sult of research in that country. 

Noam Chomsky is Ward Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute 
of Technology and the author of American Power and the New Mandarins, At 
War with Asia, and Problems of Freedom and Knowledge. 

Philippe Devillers is the director of South East Asia Studies of Centre d'£tude 
des Relations Internationales in Paris. He was attached to General Leclerc's 
headquarters in Saigon during 1945-1946 and was for some time a senior cor- 
respondent for Le Monde. He is the author of What Mao Really Said and co- 
author of End of a War: Indochina Nineteen Fifty-Four. 

John W. Dower is an assistant professor of Japanese history at the University 
of Wisconsin at Madison. A member of the Committee of Concerned Asian 
Scholars, he has lived in Japan and is the author of The Elements of Japanese 
Design. He is currently working on a book about postwar U.S. -Chin a- Japan 

Richard B. Du BolT is an associate professor of economics at Bryn Mawr Col- 
lege, where he is a specialist in economic history and development. He co- 
authored with Edward S. Herman America's Vietnam Policy: The Strategy of 

xii Notes on Contributors 

Walt Haney is a graduate student at the Center for Studies in Education and 
Development at Harvard. He spent two years in Laos with International Volun- 
tary Services and one year with the Ministry of Education of the Royal Lao 
government. Mr. Haney prepared the Survey of Civilian Casualties Among 
Refugees from the Plain of Jars for the U.S. Senate subcommittee on refugees 
and escapees. 

Gabriel Koiko is currently professor of history at York University in Toronto. 
Among his books are The Roots of American Foreign Policy, The Politics of 
War, and with Joyce Kolko, The Limits of Power. 

Truong Buu Lam is now a visiting professor of history at the University of 
Hawaii. The author of Patterns of Vietnamese Response to Foreign Interven- 
tions: 1858-1900, he was for several years the director of the Institute of His- 
torical Research in Saigon and concurrently taught at the University of Saigon. 

Don Luce is now director of the Indochina Mobile Education Project. He was 
in Vietnam from 1958 to 1971 as an agriculturist, as director of International 
Voluntary Services, and as a research associate and journalist for the World 
Council of Churches. He is the author of Vietnam: The Unheard Voices and has 
translated and edited a volume of Vietnamese poetry. We Promise One Another: 
Poems from an Asian War. 

David G. Marr served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Marine Corps from 
1959 to 1964. Now an assistant professor of Vietnamese studies at Cornell Uni- 
versity and director of the Indochina Resource Center in Washington, D.C., he is 
the author of Vietnamese Anticolonialism. 

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat, has taught political science. Now 
an associate professor of English at the University of California at Berkeley, he 
is a co-author of The Politics of Escalation in Vietnam and author of The War 

Howard Zinn is a historian and professor of political science at Boston Univer- 
sity. Among his books are Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal and The Politics 
of History. 

Gravel Edition / Pentagon Papers / Volume V 


1. The American Goals in Vietnam 
by Gabriel Kolko 

specialization often becomes the historian's means for escaping a reality too 
complex for his comprehension. To perceive everything about a narrow segment 
of history is thereby transformed into a tacit admission that the larger, more 
profound and significant dimensions of a period are beyond one's understanding. 
This is especially the case for the government's historians or its hired academics 
who, in addition to the limits of time and difficulty of the topic, must avoid alien- 
ating superiors whose biases candor and truth are likely to rankle. 

Conversely, there is no doubt that sheer quantity can help overcome self- 
censorship and myopia inflicted by superiors on mediocrity. Even if the Pentagon 
Papers' authors did not write good history, much less reflect on it with the kind 
of intelligence that even conservative historians occasionally show, the vast bulk 
of the undertaking — with its endless narrative and documents — brings us vir- 
tually to the threshold of the essential history of the Vietnam war as seen from 
the official American perspective. For we can reassess the documents, cast the 
narrative into a sharply new mold, and isolate the critical bases of the U.S. role 
in Indochina from the mass of verbiage encrusting the fundamentals of the ex- 

The greatest failing of the Pentagon Papers is that they largely divorce the 
twenty-five-year history of the United States and Indochina from the global con- 
text in which Washington's decisionmakers always made policy and perceived 
the world. They ignore earlier and contemporaneous crises and interventions that 
are better measures of the sources of policy and give us a keener index by which 
to assess the causes of policy and conduct often alluded to, however imperfectly, 
in the Pentagon Papers. And by failing to write concisely, with a view Xo stressing 
the main themes which their own evidence clearly sustains, the authors of the 
Pentagon Papers have buried the major currents of U.S. policy in Indochina 
under a mass of verbiage. In this essay I shall seek to extract and analyze some 
of these central threads — the concept of the domino theory and its real meaning 
and significance, the notion of "credibility" in the larger context of Washington's 
global priorities, and the issue of "Vietnamization" and the implications of this 
futile doctrine to the character and conduct of the terrible war itself. 

Copyright © 1972 by Gabriel Kolko. 

* The text for numbered notes is at the end of each essay. The Pentagon Papers — The 
Senator Gravel Edition, 4 vols. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971) is cited in parentheses 
within the essays. Other editions of the Pentagon Papers are cited as USG ed. (U.S. 
government edition) and NYT/Bantam (New York Times paperback) and NYT/ 
Quadrangle (New York Times hardcover). 

2 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 


Obscured in a mass of operational details which never focus on the purpose or 
even the nature of policy in any real depth, the Pentagon Papers necessarily im- 
part a kind of muddled and accidental character to U.S. policy in Indochina with- 
out revealing the firm assumptions which almost invariably cause decisionmakers 
to select certain options. Such impressions ignore the fact that a nation gets into 
the sort of complicated, often insoluble difficulties to which its basic national 
policy and definitions of interests necessarily make it prone, and that its "errors" 
and muddling appear only when its goals exceed its means for attaining them. 
In this sense Indochina proved to be only the culminating yet unavoidable mis- 
calculation in a global effort that began well before the Indochina crisis and 
then ran concurrent to it. 

Years before Washington used the domino theory to justify intervention in 
Southeast Asia, it exploited it in other regions in a manner that revealed the exact 
substance of this doctrine. Perhaps the first important application of the analogy 
was in the Middle East in the first two years after World War II. The stakes 
were entirely explicit: oil and "the raw-material balance of the world," in Presi- 
dent Truman's words. ^ The question was to avoid a vacuum of power which the 
Soviet Union and/or radical nationalism might fill. The extension of specifically 
U.S. power and, preeminently, economic interests in a region therefore became 
integral to the domino theory. "If Greece should dissolve into civil war," Secre- 
tary of State George C. Marshall argued privately in February 1947, Turkey 
might then fall and "Soviet domination might thus extend over the entire Middle 
East and Asia." ^ And this perspective served not merely as the strategic justifi- 
cation for military aid, with the threat of intervention, but the acquisition of ever 
greater U.S. oil concessions at one and the same time. 

Even before the first Indochina crisis, therefore, Washington had hammered 
out in the real world the functional meaning of the domino theory, and a kind of 
political-military imperial overhead charge became integral to its later realization 
of clearly articulated economic goals. Translated into concrete terms, the domino 
theory was a counterrevolutionary doctrine which defined modern history as a 
movement of Third World and dependent nations — those with economic and 
strategic value to the United States or its capitalist associates — away from colo- 
nialism or capitalism and toward national revolution and forms of socialism. 
Insofar as the domino theory was never a timetable, but an assessment of the 
direction in history of large portions of the world from the control of the Right 
to the control of the Left, it was accurate. No less important was the first Ameri- 
can decision, taken during the Truman Doctrine crisis of early 1947, that inter- 
vention in one country largely to save those around it was the inevitable pre- 
liminary political and military overhead charges of imperialism. Well before 1950, 
much less the profound involvement in Indochina after 1960, the U.S. had ap- 
plied this principle to many other regions of the world. Indochina became the 
culmination of this effort to expand America's power by saving vast areas of the 
world for its own forms of political and economic domination. 

In the first instance, at least, America's leaders defined the problem of Indo- 
china in its global context. Only later was it to become the transcendent test of 
the very efficacy of the essential means and goals of U.S. imperialism everywhere. 
For the major event influencing the U.S. response to the Vietnamese revolution 
was the final demise of the Kuomintang in China in 1949 and the policy discus- 

The American Goals in Vietnam 3 

sions that ensued from that monumental fact. The United States had always been 
hostile toward the Vietminh, but in mid- 1949 the U.S. government made the 
irrevocable decision to oppose the further extension of "Communism" elsewhere 
in Asia and Southeast Asia. Although the means by which it would do so were 
unclear, the principle itself was not in any manner vague, and this prejudged the 
policy options. Specifically, the United States anticipated a major crisis in Indo- 
china and began to prepare for it, and had the unanticipated outbreak of war in 
Korea not preempted its main focus it is likely it would have intervened far more 
aggressively there much earlier. For recognition of the French puppet regimes, 
and important military and economic aid to them, began before the Korean 

Other considerations, besides resistance to "Communism" in Asia, also entered 
into the decision to sustain the French in Indochina. All were important, but the 
precise weight one would assign to each varies over time. There was also the 
desire to help the French end the war in order to return their troops to Europe 
so that France would cease to block West German rearmament. So long as France 
was tied up in colonial ventures, it would lack confidence in its mastery over a 
resurgent Germany. Then there was the desire to direct Japan toward Southeast 
Asia's markets and raw materials rather than seeing it emerge as an economic 
rival elsewhere, or perhaps dependent on Left regimes that could thereby control 
Japan's future social system. Such an outlook was of an integrated East Asia capi- 
talism, with Japan as its keystone, docilely cooperating with the American metrop- 
olis. Next was the entire raw materials question. And lastly was the search for a 
military doctrine relevant to local revolutionary conflicts rather than global 
atomic war with industrial states — the beginning of the long and futile American 
search for a means by which to relate its illusory technological superiority to the 
dominant social trends of the post-World War II era.* 

The vital relationship of the future of the Indochina war to European affairs 
emerges only dimly from the Pentagon Papers, with its erroneous assumption 
that the United States somewhat unwillingly supported France in Indochina for 
fear of losing its support for the European Defense Community. But no such 
French pressure was necessary, for in actuality the United States — for its own 
reasons — sustained the French cause as its own as well as in the hope of bringing 
that nation victoriously back to the European arena which the Americans thought 
more vital in the global context (Gravel ed., 1:79-80, 405-407).^ Given Amer- 
ica's passionate anti-Communism, it was inevitable that it associate spiritually as 
well as materially — to the tune of $3.5 billion by 1954 — with France's undertak- 
ing. References to anti-Communism, even outside the context of the strategic- 
economic assumptions of the domino theory analyzed below, were frequent 
enough in the official American discussion prior to 1954 — to the extent of ac- 
tively considering direct U.S. military intervention against the Vietminh and 
China (Gravel ed., 1:55, 79, 82-83, 363, 375-376).6 

No less important, and barely alluded to in the Pentagon Papers, was the tor- 
tured strategy debate that the Eisenhower administration initiated immediately 
upon entering office. Basically, it acknowledged the need for a superior military 
doctrine than the haphazard eclecticism the Truman regime had dumped upon it, 
and so began a convoluted search for a means by which they could bring together 
American military technology and economic power, immense by world standards 
but also finite insofar as the U.S. budget was concerned, for a new, more success- 
ful synthesis. The gnawing insecurity which the Korean conflict left among Amer- 
ica's political and military leaders, who had failed to impose swiftly and cheaply 
their will in that conflict, was the first tacit acknowledgment of the profound lim- 

4 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon PapeKs/Vol. V 

its of American power in a decentralized world filled with agrarian revolutions 
and upheavals. The "New Look" debate of 1953-1954 sought to maximize mili- 
tary results at less cost, and because it lacked concrete precision for specific situ- 
ations, and eventually proved utterly worthless, the effort left a psychological ten- 
sion in which Washington thought that perhaps by acting in Indochina to avert 
French defeat the United States could synthesize success from experience blended 
with doctrine. The failure of conventional war in Asia — both in Korea and Indo- 
china — colored all American responses to the coming demise of France in Indo- 
china until the Geneva Conference of May 1954. At that time Washington was 
reduced to the fruitless, eventually incredibly dangerous role of creating obstacles 
to a final diplomatic resolution of the war in the hope of buying time by which to 
retain its puppets in at least a portion of Vietnam. The strategic value of the East 
Asian states, the willingness and capacity of the United States to act against local 
revolutions with optimum, even nuclear force to sustain the credibility of its 
numerous pacts and alliances, both privately and publicly appear in the U.S. 
documents at this time (Gravel ed., 1:418, 494)."^ More to the point and illumi- 
nating, both in terms of sheer bulk and intrinsic importance, is the articulation 
of the domino theory in the Southeast Asia context. 

It is impossible to divorce the economic and strategic components of the so- 
called domino theory, because they are far more often than not mentioned in the 
same private and public discussions of official U.S. policy. To confront the sig- 
nificance of this synthesis of concerns is to comprehend the truly imperialist na- 
ture of American policy in Southeast Asia, its precedents and purposes, and quite 
naturally the authors of the Pentagon Papers failed to assess the constant refer- 
ences to raw materials found in their documents. But policy-makers cannot afford 
the obscurantism of their court historians, and candor on the objectives of the 
American undertaking in Asia was the rule rather than the exception. 

Indeed, documents in the Pentagon Papers reiterate that as early as 1941 the 
"supreme importance" of the control of "rubber, tin and other commodities" of 
the region was a major contributing element in the war with Japan (Gravel ed., 
1:8). "The fall of Indochina would undoubtedly lead to the fall of the other main- 
land states of Southeast Asia," the Joint Chiefs of Staff argued in April 1950, 
and with it Russia would control "Asia's war potential . . . affecting the balance 
of power" (Gravel ed., 1:187). Not only "major sources of certain strategic ma- 
terials" would be lost, but also communications routes (Gravel ed., 1:364). The 
State Department argued a similar line at this time, writing off Thailand and 
Burma should Indochina fall. Well before the Korea conflict this became the of- 
ficial doctrine of the United States, and the war there further intensified this com- 
mitment (Gravel ed., 1:194, 362-364, 373). 

The loss of Indochina, Washington had decided by its vast arms shipments to 
the French as well as by formal doctrine articulated in June 1952, "would have 
critical psychological, political and economic consequences. . . . The loss of any 
single country would probably lead to relatively swift submission to or an align- 
ment with communism by the remaining countries of this group. Furthermore, 
an alignment with communism of the rest of Southeast Asia and India, and in the 
longer term, of the Middle East (with the probable exceptions of at least Pakistan 
and Turkey) would in all probability progressively follow. Such widespread align- 
ment would endanger the stability and security of Europe." It would "render the 
U.S. position in the Pacific offshore island chain precarious and would seriously 
jeopardize fundamental U.S. security interests in the Far East." The "principal 
world source of natural rubber and tin, and a producer of petroleum and other 
strategically important commodities," would be lost in Malaya and Indonesia. 

The American Goals in Vietnam 5 

The rice exports of Burma and Thailand would be taken from Malaya, Ceylon, 
Japan, and India. Eventually, there would be "such economic and political pres- 
sures in Japan as to make it extremely difficult to prevent Japan's eventual ac- 
commodation to communism" (Gravel ed., 1:83-84). This was the perfect in- 
tegration of all the elements of the domino theory, involving raw materials, mili- 
tary bases, and the commitment of the United States to protect its many spheres 
of influence. In principle, even while helping the French to fight for the larger 
cause which America saw as its own, Washington leaders prepared for direct U.S. 
intervention when it became necessary to prop up the leading domino — Indo- 
china (Gravel ed., 1:375-390). 

Privately and publicly, there was no deception regarding the stakes and goals 
for American power. "Why is the United States spending hundreds of millions 
of dollars supporting the forces of the French Union in the fight against com- 
munism," Vice-President Richard Nixon explained publicly in December 1953. 
"If Indochina falls, Thailand is put in an almost impossible position. The same is 
true of Malaya with its rubber and tin. The same is true of Indonesia. If this 
whole part of Southeast Asia goes under Communist domination or Communist 
influence, Japan, who trades and must trade with this area in order to exist, must 
inevitably be oriented towards the Communist regime." ^ Both naturally and 
logically, references to tin, rubber, rice, copra, iron ore, tungsten, and oil are 
integral to American policy considerations from the inception of the war (Gravel 
ed., 1:407, 421, 436, 450, 473, 594, 597).^ As long as he was President, Eisen- 
hower never forgot his country's dependence on raw materials imports and the 
need to control their sources. When he first made public the "falling domino" 
analogy in April 1954, he also discussed the dangers of losing the region's tin, 
tungsten, and rubber, and the risk of Japan being forced into dependence on Com- 
munist nations for its industrial life — with all that implied (Gravel ed., 1:603, 
623). 10 Only one point need be mentioned here regarding the understanding of 
the domino theory. Always implicit in the doctrine was that it was the economic 
riches of the neighbors of the first domino, whether Greece or Indochina, that 
were essential, and when the U.S. first intervened into those hapless and relatively 
poor nations it was with the surrounding region foremost in its calculations. It 
was this willingness to accept the immense preliminary overhead charges of re- 
gional domination that should be as clear in our minds as it was in those of the 
men who made the decisions to intervene. 

But to find a practical way of relating such considerations to reality was not 
easy for the American leaders, and Dulles' vague threats, beginning at the end of 
1953 and continuing until the termination of the Geneva conference, to employ 
nuclear weapons or U.S. forces scarcely altered the inexorable facts that the 
Vietminh's military triumphs imposed. From this point onward the modalities for 
attaining U.S. goals in Southeast Asia were bankrupt, rear-guard efforts designed 
only to strengthen decaying regimes and the next domino. But the policy itself 
was only reaffirmed after the French defeat. It was tactically temporarily suc- 
cessful, but strategically disastrous, and the slow unfolding of that fact con- 
stitutes the main experience in American history since 1954 (Gravel ed., 1:86, 
98, 106-107, 177). Indochina becomes the conjunction point, from this time on- 
ward, for assorted doctrines and crises that had accumulated during the preceding 
decade without satisfactory resolution for the controllers of American power. 
Military power, economic integration, leadership of the world struggle against the 
tides of revolutionary change — all these crises and frustrations were to fix upon 
the Indochina experience in some central manner. 

6 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 


This futile American search for a military doctrine capable of mastering the 
imperatives of U.S. national interests in the world, applying successfully the vast 
military technology it had hoarded since 1945, and meeting the exigencies of local 
war all came to a head when President Kennedy entered office. Because this 
combination of circumstances was part of the generalized crisis in U.S. power in 
the world that had been gradually building up since the Korean war, Washington's 
policy toward Indochina was largely colored, especially until 1963, by the global 
context. This was surely the case while Kennedy was President. 

Kennedy had been briefed by President Eisenhower on the domino theory and 
Southeast Asia immediately before the transfer of power, and the doctrine was 
accepted as a truism in planning U.S. policy throughout this critical formative 
period. But no less important, at this time, was the Kennedy administration link- 
age of events in Cuba or Berlin, and general relations with the USSR, to those 
in Indochina. The phrase "a symbolic test of strength between the major powers 
of the West and the Communist bloc" was already being employed during March 
1961, and while this proposition does not necessarily capture all dimensions of 
the causes of U.S. action, it does provide an important psychological insight into 
how, and why, many actions were taken (Gravel ed., 11:33, 48-49, 57, 635-637). 
"Credibility," in any event, was part of the earlier frustrating U.S. doctrinal de- 
bate over "massive retaliation" and the like. The day after the Bay of Pigs in- 
vasion capsized, April 20, 1961, the new Administration created a special task 
force on Southeast Asia that was to help generate a whole new phase of the Indo- 
china crisis. Even publicly, at this time, Kennedy was explicit in linking the 
events in Vietnam to his concern for the defeat in Cuba, and developments in 
Europe were no less influential. Put succinctly, given the U.S. failures everywhere 
else, the United States was prepared to make Laos and Vietnam the test of Amer- 
ican resolution, to find new means of warfare as yet unknown, "to grasp the new 
concepts, the new tools," to quote Kennedy, that might snatch victory from im- 
pending defeat for American imperialism elsewhere in the world (Gravel ed., II: 
34, 2, 21, 33, 57, 72-73, 801). He quickly sent a "military hardware" team, aware 
"of the various techniques and gadgets now available," to Saigon (Gravel ed., II: 
34). The crucifixion of Indochina that began then to unfold was directed both to- 
ward Southeast Asia and the other dominos, but also toward all the rest of revo- 
lutionary mankind. It was as if the Americans had decided to make Indochina 
pay for an unkind history's debts for postwar American imperiahsm's defeats, de- 
feats that were to evoke the vengeance of the desperate. 

This concern for the "psychological impact" of a strong stand in South Vietnam 
on the events in Berlin and Cuba surely prevailed during the early part of 1962, 
when an immense expansion of the "limited war" budget and capability of the 
U.S. military also needed the now traditional international crisis and tensions es- 
sential to the quick passage of funding bills in Congress. Along more conven- 
tional lines of thought, American planners also calculated the allegedly grievous 
domino effects as far as Japan, India, and Australia, as that stalwart doctrine im- 
bedded itself yet more deeply. Complementing these thoughts, but less often cited 
for the period after 1960 by the Pentagon Papers' authors, were the "rice, rubber, 
teak, corn, tin, spices, oil, and many others" of the nations in the Southeast Asia 
line of dominos (Gravel ed., 11:817, 174-175, 663-665). While men of power 
naturally assumed this critical definition of the substantive meaning of retaining 

The American Goals in Vietnam 7 

power in the region, the decline of such references after 1960 is more a reflection 
on the perceptions and qualities of the authors of the history, or the demands 
placed on them, than it is of the true reasons. Roughly three-quarters of their 
study is devoted to the period 1961-1967, during which time probably most of 
the internal operational documents on which they focus were written, but also 
because, as the director of the undertaking admits, many earlier documents were 
not kept or found. Since nowhere in the work do the authors attempt to weigh the 
relative importance of causal factors, this abdication to quantity of memos and 
reports leads to myopic history. The economic element, so critical in the longer 
period of 1945-1959 from their own account, is minimized by default thereafter. 
The strategic importance of Southeast Asia, and the need to resist the presumed 
expansionist intentions of China against all Asia, is now their preferred explana- 
tion (Gravel ed., I:xvi; 11:821-822). 

This partiality in treating the causes of the war, whether by default to docu- 
ments weighted by quantity or ideological preference, extends to such few defini- 
tions of the nature of the war that they allude to in the work. None of this is 
surprising, of course, because "professional" official military historians have 
been uniformly second-rate since the writing of such history began, but also be- 
cause the three dozen or so authors who came from other government agencies 
were, again to quote the project director, "not always versed in the art of re- 
search" (Gravel ed., I:xv). Assigning discrete parts to so many different hands, 
it is not surprising the history lacks thematic consistency or unity, much less re- 
flection and serious evaluations. And, given their professional and personal con- 
nections and choices, they are uniformly incapable of transcending the conven- 
tional wisdom common in Washington. One of their deficiencies, their incapacity 
to comprehend the relationship of the war to the Vietnamese masses themselves, 
and the very nature of the undertaking, makes it quite impossible for them to 
perceive the larger events after 1963. We must attempt to do so before analyzing 
the logic of the recent war. 

Had the conflict in Vietnam since 1945 been essentially that of a civil war, in 
which Vietnamese fought Vietnamese, the French and then the American under- 
taking would have been militarily feasible. Indeed, it might even have been 
temporarily successful. That it was a military disaster for the vastly superior ma- 
terial forces of the French and now the United States, and that their external 
military role and aid has always been the source of warfare, is proof of the inter- 
ventionary and fragile nature of the entire Western effort. Basically, this inter- 
ventionary, colonial quality of the war has always inevitably produced defeat for 
the intruders. The United States interceded in Indochina to protect its own na- 
tional interests, a proposition that holds everywhere else as well. Had there been 
a social and cultural basis for the successive regimes of its puppets, then the "Viet- 
namization" of the war would possibly have attained some measure of temporary 
success sometimes since 1945. Axiomatically, the fact that an appreciable num- 
ber of Vietnamese could never be found to effectively use their vastly superior 
weapons against the Vietminh and then the National Liberation Front is evidence 
that the war was never a civil conflict. And no less axiomatic was the necessity 
of ever greater foreign commitments — "escalations" as they are now called — to 
sustain political fictions and loyal elites in power. For military escalation was al- 
ways the inevitable, logical ancillary of keeping phantom governments alive on 
behalf of a foreign nation's interests, and this fact was always understood in Wash- 

The United States first began its attempt to "Vietnamize" the war in 1950, 
when its initial economic and military aid went to local puppet forces whose 

8 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

leaders have now long since retired. Roughly 350,000 such troops were being 
funded by 1953, when the long string of disasters for the French reached a critical 
point. By early 1961, the approximately 170,000-man army Diem had used to re- 
press opposition with declining success was enlarged to 200,000 (Gravel ed., I: 
396, 400, 490-491; 11:24, 37, 50). Relying on these men, well armed and formally 
with superior training, to control the insurgency and manage the country was the 
public and private objective of Washington's policy from 1961 onward. The de- 
sire to prove American "credibility" to the world and stop the dominoes at one 
and the same time was initially linked to buttressing Diem's forces, not employing 
America's. During the last half of 1962 the United States further embellished its 
commitment by seeking to train and equip 458,000 regular and paramilitary Sai- 
gon forces by mid- 1965, with the NLF resistance scheduled to be under control 
by the end of that year. The Americans increased their military personnel in 
South Vietnam from 2,646 at the beginning of 1962, mainly in air transport and 
support units, to 12,200 during 1964-1965, and even planned their extensive 
withdrawal, to start during late 1965 (Gravel ed., 11:175-179, 186). 

If the data in the Pentagon Papers may be accepted on face value, it is clear 
that the main U.S. decisionmakers truly expected that lavish expenditures of 
funds and a now relatively small U.S. military contingent would suffice to "Viet- 
namize" the war. But, as the authors of the study embarrassingly reflected as an 
aside, "Only the Viet Cong had any real support and influence on a broad base 
in the countryside" (Gravel ed., 11:204). Added to this defining fact was the 
political chaos and resistance in the urban areas and the deepening instability of 
the Diem clique. As President Kennedy admitted publicly on September 2, 1963, 
"I don't think that unless a greater elTort is made by the [Diem] Government to 
win popular support that the war can be won out there" (Gravel ed., 11:241). 
Privately, a National Security Council report the following month made pre- 
cisely the same point and urged the withdrawal of American "advisors" as sched- 
uled (Gravel ed.. Ill: 19). Given American awareness of the objective facts at the 
time, its disenchantment with Diem, and the apparently genuine desire of the key 
policymakers to withdraw manpower shortly, the subsequent long string of ever 
more violent escalations can only be understood as a function of the protection 
of American national interest as it was then defined in terms of economics, the 
domino, and credibility. This perception of the unpleasant truth regarding "Viet- 
namization" proved less important than what had to be done in spite of it. For 
the United States was not in Vietnam to protect a whole series of regimes it scorn- 
fully regarded as venial, but its own stakes in Southeast Asia and, as it defined it 
more broadly, the world. Not because of the palace generals would it abandon 
South Vietnam. And, if for whatever reason the troops of these corrupt leaders 
would not fight on behalf of American interests, then a proportionate escalation 
of American manpower and fire would be required. Washington's error was to 
miscalculate the economic and human cost to itself in sustaining its immutable 
objectives in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. The subsequent history of the war is 
quite predictable in light of these fixed poles in its W eltanschaung. 

The Pentagon Papers document the long sequence of frustrations and failures 
that ensued after 1963. The main themes in them are the inextricably linked 
failure of "Vietnamization" and the subsequent escalations at the cost of staving 
off defeats, the effort to establish credibility in the region and world while bal- 
ancing against it other priorities in the maintenance of the fragile American em- 
pire, and the confrontation, once again, with the limits of American technology 
in directing the destiny of modern history. 

The American Goals in Vietnam 9 

Suffice it to say, the critical year of 1964 was merely the history of the failure 
of Vietnamization juxtaposed against the desire to sustain credibility — and there- 
fore escalation. Stated in its simplest form in the Pentagon Papers, "In 1964 the 
U.S. tried to make GVN [Saigon] strong, effective, and stable, and it failed" 
(Gravel ed., 11:277). Vietnamization was a military and a political failure, and 
talk in Saigon of a popular front, neutralist government was rife by the late sum- 
mer. Moreover, in 1964, just as Eisenhower had observed with bewilderment in 
1961, "Not only do the Viet Cong units have the recuperative powers of the 
Phoenix, but they have had an amazing ability to maintain morale" (Gravel ed., 
111:668; see also 11:336, 637; 111:652, 666-667). Understanding this, however, 
did not cause the Americans to see that such strength was a decisive element in 
the larger war. Escalating, they thought, would substitute American firepower 
for Saigon's defeatism, and overcome the ardor and genius of the NLF. 

In part, as well, the United States believed that in escalating, among other 
things, it could also thereby win time for the Vietnamization process eventually to 
succeed. It would show "the U.S. continues to mean business" and "tend to lift 
GVN morale" (Gravel ed., 111:561). Pitting steel against dedication suits crack- 
pot realists well, and the notion that it would win Saigon time for its training tasks 
appears not to have been questioned. Not only would it reveal "a willingness to 
raise the military ante and eschew negotiations begun from a position of weak- 
ness," but by obtaining "a breakthrough in the mutual commitment of the U.S. 
in Vietnam to a confident sense of victory" it would galvanize the tottering, op- 
portunistic Khanh regime to do better for the United States (Gravel ed., 111:78; 
see also 11:344; 111:546, 559). 

Moreover, as McNamara told Johnson in January 1964, though he much pre- 
ferred Saigon troops fighting the war, "we cannot disengage U.S. prestige to any 
significant degree. . . . The consequences of a Communist-dominated South 
Vietnam are extremely serious both for the rest of Southeast Asia and for the 
U.S. position in the rest of Asia and indeed in other key areas of the world . . ." 
(Gravel ed., 11:193). "If we leave Vietnam with our tail between our legs," Gen. 
Maxwell Taylor argued the following September, "the consequences of this de- 
feat in the rest of Asia, Africa, and Latin America would be disastrous" (Gravel 
ed., 11:336). Here was a synthesis of the credibility and domino theories that was 
to profoundly influence subsequent American policy as well. 

Such a combination of doctrines had occurred during the first Eisenhower ad- 
ministration, but it appears likely that the sensitivity to "credibility" was to deepen 
as U.S. manpower grew, if only because of the failure until then of the soldiers 
and military implements on which Washington was staking so much elsewhere 
as well. For if America were to be frustrated in Vietnam, its capacity to control 
events in other parts of the Third World would be profoundly challenged. In 
actual policy debates, however, the domino and credibility doctrines tended to be 
more and more merged: "the South Vietnam conflict is regarded as a test case of 
U.S. capacity to help a nation to meet a Communist 'war of liberation' " (Gravel 
ed., 111:500; see also 111:496-497). The only real issue, from the viewpoint of 
domino theory, became not the analogy itself but how far the falling dominoes 
might extend. Indeed, precisely because the United States had put its force on 
the testing line of battle, the dominoes might fall all the more quickly and em- 
phatically, it was now conjectured. A somewhat milder, less concerned version 
continued to be issued publicly. But not only nearby states were thrown into a 
doctrine of falling links, but the unraveling of the Pacific and Asia pacts as well, 
and even the future of Greece and Turkey in NATO (Gravel ed., 111:219-220, 
500, 598-599, 622-628, 657-659, 712, 714, 732). 

10 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 

This test case proposition, involving credibility, was honed to a fine doctrine 
throughout 1964. Not merely the dominoes, the Joint Chiefs of Staff argued 
during January, but the "durability, resolution, and trustworthiness" of the United 
States would affect "our image in Africa and in Latin America," a clear lesson to 
revolutionary movements there (Gravel ed., 111:497). As the crisis of Vietnam 
reached a peak during the fall, requiring grave new decisions, "will and capabil- 
ity to escalate the action if required" was trotted out again (Gravel ed., 111:208). 
"U.S. prestige is heavily committed, . . . our standing as the principal helper 
against Communist expansion" had to be impaired as little as possible, "to pro- 
tect U.S. reputation as a counter-subversion guarantor" (Gravel ed., 111:216, 598; 
see also 111:622, 659), and the like they argued repeatedly, with no objections at 
all from other decisionmakers. Moreover, Washington fully believed that, in some 
imperceptible but quite ideological manner, China was the root cause of the Indo- 
china conflict — a notion that could not explain the morale and success of the 
NLF with the large masses of Vietnamese people. By the end of 1964, as well, the 
increasingly active role of the USSR in supporting the DRV made it seem, in- 
deed, as if the major enemies the U.S. had chosen for itself were now putting it 
to the test. Given this concern for the new balance of forces in the war, the im- 
plications of defeat for the region and counterrevolution everywhere, and "our 
reputation," the utter military ineptitude of the vast Saigon army left the Ameri- 
can leaders two options — acceptance of reality, with all its concomitant implica- 
tions for the future of U.S. interventionism and economic power elsewhere, or 
escalation. In light of the imperatives of postwar American imperialism, and the 
men at its helm, the choice was foreordained (Gravel ed., 111:683; see also III: 
115, 266-267, 592, 695). 


The history of the war after 1965 is the history of escalation, a period so well 
known that the Pentagon Papers tell us scarcely more than new operational de- 
tails about it. Given the visible facts, and the human and military effects of the 
war then being widely publicized, there can be precious little mystery to fathom. 
The experience showed an endemic American incapacity to reason outside a pro- 
foundly destructive fixed frame of reference, one that reflected conventional wis- 
dom, and an almost self-destructive conformity to it even when its operational 
bankruptcy was repeatedly revealed in practice. The only surprise in the Pentagon 
Papers is how little internal opposition to this course existed among those in a 
position to shape policy, and that appeared well after it was baldly apparent that 
America's goals greatly exceeded its means and other global obligations. This 
near unanimity was a result of the total consensus on the nature of national in- 
terests among men who attain power, a consensus that again proved that the ob- 
jectives of U.S. postwar interventionism, rather than being a muddle or accident, 
brought the nation to its final impasse and defeat. By their own criteria and needs, 
American leaders did what their system demanded, and had often successfully 
achieved elsewhere. Their miscalculation was to grossly overestimate U.S. power 
in relationship to that of the Vietnamese. 

More, than ever before, the "credibility" argument tended to shape American 
leadership's responses to developments in Vietnam after 1965. ". . . To avoid 
humiliation" and "preserve our reputation," or words like it, "appears in count- 
less memoranda," writes a Pentagon Papers author (Gravel ed., IV: 22, 47). 
Domino analogies also are routinely employed, although by 1967 at least some 

The American Goals in Vietnam 11 

U.S. leaders, such as Secretary of State Dean Rusk, sought to escape criticism of 
the assumptions behind it by describing the equivalent phenomenon in presum- 
ably more neutral, operational terms. Given these continued durable premises, 
and the pervasive incapacity of Saigon's army, it was certain that escalation on 
the United States' part would follow. In 1966, however, its leaders now occasion- 
ally appeared to weigh the United States' commitment in Vietnam against its 
physical obligations and needs elsewhere and the discontent of its European allies. 
By 1967, indeed, this concern for priorities was supplemented by the graver, im- 
mediate problem of the economic costs of the war to domestic inflation and the 
United States' balance-of-payments problem overseas. As the authors of the Pen- 
tagon Papers fail to note later, this consciousness of global priorities and the eco- 
nomic limits of escalation in March 1968 was to begin to impose at least some 
critical brake on the escalatory process (Gravel ed., IV: 88-89, 442, 490, 510, 
614,618, 636, 662, 681).i^ 

The Pentagon Papers deluge us with endless details on the process of escala- 
tion: there were large escalations, small ones, long and short, wider ones to Laos, 
more northerly or less, and escalations that were considered and rejected. The 
dominant fact in this welter of details, much of it superfluous, is that the United 
States raced up the ladder of munitions tonnages and manpower at a rate that 
was to prove faster than even the immense American economy could digest, but 
utterly inadequate to deliver the coveted military victory. Indeed, that triumph 
would have been denied even had the United States implemented all the schemes 
it contemplated with their vast risks of war with China. From about 650,000 
tons of ground and air munitions in 1965, the United States dropped 2,883,000 
tons in 1968, and its manpower increased to 543,000 men in South Vietnam by 
the end of 1968, plus 230,000 war-related personnel in the surrounding region. 
That simple fact sets the crucial context for the internal policy debate that was to 
occur during this period. 

The American debates were always encumbered by gnawing contingencies. 
One problem was that during 1966 the U.S. leaders became aware of the im- 
portance of inflation caused by the rapid troop arrivals in aggravating the al- 
ready moribund Saigon economy. Excessive escalation, in the context of this 
problem alone, could inflict severe damage on the American undertaking. Then, 
at the end of 1966, McNamara visited Saigon and concluded that significant es- 
calation, accompanied by progress in the "pacification" program, might convince 
the public within 18 months — which is to say before the Presidential election — 
that U.S. victory was attainable in due course thereafter. Until the end of 1967, 
with one unimportant exception, the issue of escalation in Washington was not 
its efficacy but the numbers that it had to commit. By May, indeed, the Joint 
Chiefs were considering ground attacks into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam, 
plus the possible use of nuclear weapons against sites in southern China (Gravel 
ed., IV:171, 180, 239, 353, 369, 378, 442, 457, 461, 490-492). 

Despite this vast upsurge of activity, the military results were infinitely less 
than the American leaders had hoped for, and their military reserves in the world 
were too small for the undertaking that even some Pentagon analysts thought 
might drag on indefinitely at any level short of nuclear war. In fact, almost im- 
mediately the American fascination with their own material power led to the rev- 
elation of the limits of technology in revolutionary warfare in a manner that is 
certain to have profound repercussions in future and futile American efforts to 
discover a military doctrine appropriate to its immense technical means and even 
larger political and economic goals during the remainder of this century. Es- 
sentially, every weapons system the Americans applied failed to attain the pur- 

12 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/ Vol. V 

poses for which it was intended. In terms of U.S. expenses in bombing North 
Vietnam during the first year, its losses to the DRV air defense alone were four 
times the estimated material damage inflicted — but far higher yet in terms of 
total U.S. costs. More important, with extremely accurate statistical measurement 
the United States knew that it had failed to deprive the DRV of anything it 
needed to resist eff"ectively. Its oil storage and transport systems remained more 
than ample for any demand imposed on them. Its capacity to move men and 
equipment south increased, and the essence of these frustrating facts were made 
public at the time. Success via air power, America's leaders learned quickly, was 
not attainable. But on the ground itself, the Americans concluded by mid-1967, 
the NLF controlled the terms and timing of combat in almost four-fifths of 
the engagements (Gravel ed., IV:45, 55-59, 67, 69, 107, 109-112, 457, 461- 
462, 490). The United States, clearly, could not achieve victory in such a war. 

Rather than accept the political conclusions of these defining military facts 
by withdrawing from Vietnam, the United States turned to other uses for its 
technology in the hope of grasping victory from the maw of imminent defeat. In- 
ternal discussions printed in the Pentagon Papers show that, given the militarily 
inconclusive nature of the air war, war crimes against civilian populations be- 
came an intended consequence of the war. In what it calls a "very influential re- 
port," in March 1966 the CIA assessed the feeble results of bombing and outlined 
the need to turn to "the will of the regime as a target system" (Gravel ed., IV:71 ). 
It proposed "a punitive bombing campaign," in the words of the Pentagon Pa- 
pers (Gravel ed., IV: 74). The Americans would bomb without illusions as to the 
direct military results, but in the hope of breaking a nation's will to resist. In any 
nation that could only mean the people: the "attrition of men, supplies, equip- 
ment and [oil]," to quote a document of the following September (Gravel ed., IV: 
110). Four-fifths of the North Vietnamese casualties of the bombing, the CIA 
reported in January 1967, were civilians. One expression of this, to quote Robert 
Komer in April 1967 as he set out for Saigon with power to implement his pro- 
gram, was to "Step up refugee programs deliberately aimed at depriving the VC 
of a recruiting base" (Gravel ed., IV: 441; see also IV: 136). Or, to quote John 
McNaughton the earlier year, while urging studies of the feasibility of attacking 
the dams and locks in the DRV, "by shallow-flooding the rice, it leads after time 
to widespread starvation (more than a million?) unless food is provided — which 
we could offer to do 'at the conference table' " (Gravel ed., IV: 43). 

It was as a result of the failure of orthodox bombing techniques that a group 
of crackpot realist academics, for the most part self-styled "liberals," were able to 
concoct and sell the doctrine of electronic warfare. Roger Fisher of the Harvard 
Law School first proposed it to McNaughton in January 1966, suggesting chemi- 
cal warfare, mines, and the like stretched in a belt across the DMZ and part of 
Laos. Over the coming spring and summer, academics such as Carl Kaysen, 
Jerome Wiesner, and Jerrold Zacharias were able to propose a whole family of 
antipersonnel concepts and weapons, geared to sensoring and monitoring tech- 
niques, to attack manpower. But while such diabolical contrivances could be ap- 
plied against personnel under other circumstances, the electronic belt was never 
to be constructed, and electronic warfare itself proved to be at least the same dis- 
mal failure as conventional bombing (Gravel ed., IV: 1 12-126) .^2 

The incapacity of the United States depending on its own manpower and re- 
sources in Indochina was the dominant experience of the escalations of 1965- 
1967. Full of confidence, but forced by repeated frustrations to concoct yet more 
costly and dangerous escalations throughout this period, as the Pentagon Papers 

The American Goals in Vietnam 13 

conclude: "The TET offensive showed that this progress in many ways had been 
illusory. The possibility of military victory had seemingly become remote and 
the cost had become too high in political and economic terms" (Gravel ed., IV: 
604). Insofar as U.S. manpower was concerned, after the stunning Vietnamese 
offensive in February 1968 the Americans committed but 25,000 more men. But 
it spent far more on firepower, and the fiscal year beginning July 1968 was to 
prove the most costly of the war. More important, assorted escalation schemes de- 
signed during this early 1968 period became the basis of the subsequent Johnson- 
Nixon strategy as the war was energetically pushed into Cambodia and Laos. But 
of this, and the full reasons for the March 1968 stabilization of large manpower 
increments, the Pentagon Papers say nothing or far less than has been published 

It was in this context that the United States was to return to the chimera of rely- 
ing on the Vietnamese commanded by Saigon fighting their own countrymen who 
had successfully defeated the infinitely more powerful Americans. While this no- 
tion is now called the Nixon Doctrine, it was in fact the oldest, least successful 
approach to the war since 1949. 

After 1965 the United States certainly had not abandoned the principle of de- 
pending on Saigon's forces in some critical manner, at some vague future time. 
As U.S. men poured into Vietnam in 1965, the belief was that Saigon's morale 
would be bolstered and that the Americans would give it time to reform and en- 
large its military arm. If that illusion appears to have been seriously held at first, 
as time went on and American forces grew it was thought that the certain, im- 
minent destruction of the NLF main force units might give Saigon more leisure 
to prepare to mop up thereafter. The immediate military problem therefore be- 
came one for the United States, and although it was not difficult to add about 
100,000 men to Saigon's units in the eighteen months after July 1965 (bringing 
it to 623,000 men), getting them to fight was quite another task (Gravel ed., II: 
284, 511, 596; 111:432, 462). 

Illusions about building Saigon's military capacity or morale with greater U.S. 
presence were soon smashed, and a quite realistic assessment of reality predomi- 
nated. In fact, new escalations were justified in internal debates precisely because 
Washington was aware of how decadent and fragile the Saigon political, economic, 
and military structure was at any given time. In July 1965 the Americans con- 
sidered it on the verge of disaster. At best, key Americans thought the following 
year, an enfeebled Saigon would drag on unable to prosecute the war, particularly 
the "vital nonmilitary aspects of it" (Gravel ed., IV: 87; see also IV:21). The 
contempt with which Washington held the Saigon regime at this time was total. 
"It is obviously true that the Vietnamese are not today ready for self-govern- 
ment," Henry Cabot Lodge commented at the middle of the year, "but if we are 
going to adopt the policy of turning every country that is unfit for self-govern- 
ment over to the communists, there won't be much of the world left" (Gravel 
ed., IV:99; see also IV:89). Security in the Saigon offices was so poor that it was 
given only one-hour notifications in advance of major escalations. But Saigon's 
economic and political weaknesses correctly worried the Americans the most. It 
knew the peasants regarded the Saigon officials as "tools of the local rich . . . 
excessively corrupt from top to bottom" (Gravel ed., IV: 374; see also IV: 103). 
And they retained an obsessive fear of inflation that could shatter the entire econ- 
omy, increase military desertions, and ultimately become the decisive factor of 
the war (Gravel ed., IV: 341-343, 369, 377-378). U.S. troop escalations were 
often calculated in terms of their economic impact on the local economy, a fact 
that inhibited yet further increases. 

14 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

Nothing that occurred in the period before the Tet offensive altered this Amer- 
ican vision. Saigon's army fought conventional warfare in a guerrilla context, it 
was poorly led, had poor morale, victimized the peasantry, and had low opera- 
tional capabilities. This fact was recognized in many forms, and numerous schemes 
plotted for counteracting it. But they came to naught, because even as the United 
States intervened presumably to remove the main military burden from Saigon's 
backs, its presence convinced Saigon's generals that "Uncle Sam will do their job 
for them" (Gravel ed., IV:503; see also IV:396-399, 402-403, 439-440, 463). 
It was this unregenerate group of self-serving officers to whom the United States 
was to turn when its vast gamble was finally smashed during the Tet offensive. In 
the tortured weeks after that calamity for the Americans, the extent of Saigon's 
shocking weakness was candidly assessed, and the Pentagon officials used that 
fact as justification for demanding yet another 200,000 men for Indochina and 
even heavier reliance on American manpower (Gravel ed., IV: 267, 562). 

But further increases in U.S. manpower were effectively to end at this point, 
as Washington ignored the twenty-year history of the war on behalf of the hope 
that somehow, at some time, Vietnamese could be made to fight Vietnamese on 
behalf of a foreign imperialism. The trap was thereby fixed, taken up by the 
Nixon administration as its doctrine in Indochina and remained to suck the U.S. 
into further necessary escalations of firepower, expeditions into neighboring 
states, and a protracted involvement and expense in money and men to buy the 
time essential for "Vietnamization." In this sense, the Nixon administration be- 
came the inheritor and proponent of all the main themes and failures of the pre- 
ceding two decades, accepting them as the inevitable basis of his own eventual 
demise. The story is as familiar as the outcome is certain. Only the timing is un- 
known, along with the number and magnitude of the American efforts that will be 
required so long as Washington, seeking to prevent the economically significant 
dominoes from falling, hopes to save a shred of credibility as to the efficacy of 
America's will, or continues its efforts to impose a U.S.-dominated military, po- 
litical, and economic structure on South Vietnam. The alternative is to acknowl- 
edge the reality that the magnificent Vietnamese people has defeated the most 
powerful nation in modern times. 

Though mediocre as history and partial as documentation, the Pentagon Pa- 
pers provide a singularly overwhelming indictment of how devious, incorrigible, 
and beyond the pale of human values America's rulers were throughout this epic 
event in U.S. history. If they occasionally moderated the scale of violence it was 
purely as a result of a pragmatic realization that it failed to produce results de- 
sired, and they as freely vastly increased it when convinced they might also at- 
tain their ends. 

But far more important is the main lesson that the entire Vietnam history has 
made painfully obvious to all who have either studied or experienced it. The 
United States did not at any time regard Vietnam itself as the main issue as much 
as it did the future of Southeast Asia and, beyond it, the relationship of Vietnam 
to revolution in modern times. Vietnam, almost by chance, became the main in- 
tersection of the frustrations and limits of U.S. power in the postwar period, the 
focus of the futile American effort to once and for all translate its seemingly over- 
whelming technological and economic might into a successful inhibition of local 
revolutionary forces, thereby aborting the larger pattern of world revolution and 
advancing America's own economic and strategic interests at one and the same 
time. This conclusion is inescapable from a study of the whole of postwar U.S. 
foreign policy and the "domino" and "credibility" theories as applied to Vietnam. 

The American Goals in Vietnam 15 

In this manner, the Vietnamese fought for their national salvation and self- 
determination, but also for that of the entire world as well. For just as Vietnam 
personified to the United States the consummate danger of the Left everywhere 
in the Third World in postwar history, the Vietnamese resistance embodies its 
triumph. For this reason, the Vietnamese have carried the burden in blood and ad- 
vanced the cause of a larger international movement — diverse and pluralist as 
that movement may be. In their national struggle they have therefore also been 
the most profoundly internationalist, giving both time and freedom to Latin 
American forces that have infinitely less to fear from a mired United States. And 
by defining the limits of the American ruling class's power in a manner that may 
inhibit that elite's willingness to sacrifice the blood of its docile youth in future 
imperialist follies, they have done for the American people what they themselves 
could not accomplish. The monumental struggle which the Vietnamese undertook 
and won has thereby become one of the most profoundly important events to the 
future of progress in the remainder of this century. 


1. For an example of how informative official military history, even written from a 
very conservative viewpoint, can be both as narrative and in subsuming the main cur- 
rents, see Lionel Max Chassin, The Communist Conquest of China: A History of the 
Civil War, 1945-1949 (Cambridge, 1965). 

2. Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power: The World and United States 
Foreign Policy, 1945-1954 (New York, 1972), p. 72. 

3. Ibid., p. 340. 

4. Ibid., pp. 554-562; Gabriel Kolko, The Roots of American Foreign Policy (Bos- 
ton, 1969), chap. IV, for a history of the main events of the war; The Senator Gravel 
Edition, The Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of United States De- 
cisionmaking on Vietnam [4 vols.] (Boston, 1971 ), 1:31, 37, 62-63, 362-363, 450. 

5. Kolko, Limits of Power, 683-684. 

6. Kolko, Limits of Power, 686-687. 

7. Kolko, Limits of Power, 698-700. 

8. Kolko, Limits of Power, 685. 

9. Ibid., 686-687, 795. 

10. Kolko, Limits of Power, 686. 

11. More useful data appears in Townsend Hoopes, The Limits of Intervention (New 
York, 1969); Eliot Janeway, The Economics of Crisis (New York, 1968), pp. 228, 280- 
281; Richard N. Gardner, Sterling-Dollar Diplomacy (New York, 1969), pp. xxii, Ixvii; 
Gabriel Kolko, The London Bulletin, August 1969. 

12. Lenny Siegel, "Vietnam's Electronic Battlefield," Pacific Research and World Em- 
pire Telegram, September-October 1971, pp. 1-8. 

13. Lloyd Norman, 'The '206,000 Plan'— The Inside Story," Army, April 1971, pp. 
30-35; Hoopes, Limits of Intervention, passim; Kolko, London Bulletin, passim; and 
contemporary accounts in the New York Times. 


2. Business Ideology and Foreign Policy: The 
National Security Council and Vietnam 

by Richard B. Du Boff 

We know that the struggle between the Communist system and our- 
selves will go on. We know it will go on in economics, in productivity, 
in ideology, in Latin America and Africa, in the Middle East and Asia. 
— President John F. Kennedy, Remarks at Billings, Montana, Septem- 
ber 25, 1963 (Gravel edition: 11:829). 

Publication of the Pentagon Papers offers us a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into 
the inner councils of the decisionmaking apparatus which carries out the broad 
policies of America's ruling class. This, as I see it, is why President Nixon and his 
Attorney General, John Mitchell, fought so strenuously to block their publication 
in June 1971. After all, it would have been a relatively simple matter for Nixon, 
one of the great opportunists of American history, to have made considerable 
short-term political capital from the revelations in the Papers: most of the stun- 
ning instances of deceit, subterfuge, and cynical manipulation of the American 
public pertain to the Democratic administrations of 1961-1969, the Kennedy- 
Johnson years. Nixon's fight to prevent publication of this record must be inter- 
preted as an act of class solidarity, an effort to protect the secrecy and close-cir- 
cuited concentration of decisionmaking power in the upper reaches of the U.S. 
foreign policy establishment. 


Over the years the foreign policy of the United States has exhibited a remark- 
able degree of consistency. Since the last decade of the nineteenth century this 
nation's external relations have been characterized by a compulsive expansion- 
ism, principally though not exclusively commercial and financial; a marked 
propensity for military intervention abroad;^ a distinct preference for allies of a 
conservative and counterrevolutionary stripe; and a well-known aggressiveness of 
purpose often expressed via the unilateral act, the fait accompli. Unless it is ar- 
gued that the external behavior of the American power elite is essentially planless 
and just happens to fit this mold, artificially imposed upon it, such long-term 
unity of foreign policymaking reflects underlying economic interests. In other 
words, U.S. foreign policy serves the goals of an economic ruling class more than 
any other single component of American society. 

Increasingly, this economic elite has become anchored in giant corporations 
and financial institutions. Corporate business is not merely another "interest 
group" in a complex social structure, but (as Gabriel Kolko describes it) "the 

Copyright © 1972 by Richard B. Du Boff. 

Business Ideology and Foreign Policy 17 

keystone of power which defines the essential preconditions and functions of the 
larger American social order. ... At every level of the administration of the 
American state, domestically and internationally, business serves as the fount of 
critical assumptions or goals and strategically placed personnel." ^ 

These "critical assumptions" form the ideology that promotes the interests of 
the corporate business class — which in turn has supplied most of the personnel 
to man the major foreign policy posts in Washington.'^ This ideology, moreover, 
constitutes the vital link between economic interests and political actions. The 
reason is that the key inputs into foreign policy ideology are derived from the 
general outlook of the American business community, which regards the external 
world in terms of actual and potential threats to free-wheeling, open-ended profit 
maximization. Active policy goals, then, tend to sanction "stability" and "re- 
sponsible" behavior on the part of foreign governments — just as the overriding 
requirement for corporations is a stable and highly favorable environment for 
their investment, production, and trade activities. While not "each and every act 
of political and military policy" can be tied to economic motivations,^ the gen- 
eral thrust of American foreign policy over the past seven or eight decades comes 
from the "growth"-propelled search for control over major resource areas and 
the effort to keep an open door everywhere else for potential future expansion. 
The enlargement of capital values and market outlets is the first condition of 
capitalist production itself. The development of a worldwide market to assure 
the continuity of the expansion process is also part of the first condition of capi- 
talist production — by no means can it be called extrinsic to the survival of the 

The transmission belt that converts the structure of economic privilege into 
complementary political and military decisions is ideology. An expansionist mar- 
ket economy generates the ideological assumptions which provide the framework 
for political actions.^ Furthermore, as noted, the individuals at the center of the 
foreign policy establishment have been drawn, in disproportionate numbers, from 
the ranks of the economic elite. Over the long run they — and their ideology — 
have shaped the governmental institutions and policy criteria through which de- 
cisions are made. (The National Security Council and its reports, as we shall see, 
were the chief instruments in establishing U.S. policy toward Indochina through 
1954 and beyond.) Thus, even if the State and Defense departments, and the 
White House, were to come under the control of individuals only marginally con- 
nected with the corporate business community — as may be the case with some 
of the arrivistes at the helm of the Nixon administration — ideological implanta- 
tion virtually guarantees that the overall formulation and execution of foreign 
policy will remain unchanged, short of a radical restructuring of the distribution 
of economic and political power in the outside society. As a high State Depart- 
ment official put it in 1969: 

The options the President exercises over foreign policy are bound to be 
limited. There is little possibility that the President can alter basic policy 
premises. Our conception of fundamental interests is non-controversial; the 
question is what you do to promote these interests." 

The critical elements of business ideology bear a direct relationship to Amer- 
ican foreign policy. One element is that in international affairs, as in business, 
there are "rules of the game" that are violated only under pain of swift retribu- 
tion. These rules represent political mechanisms which warrant continuation of 
the capitalist property system. The arrogant, moralizing mentality of a John 

18 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

Foster Dulles, for instance, can be traced to training in and practice of inter- 
national law, traditionally the vehicle for imposing a network of Western privi- 
leges on lesser breeds. More generally, the legalistic approach to international 
relations represents a self-interested extension of capitalist rules of the game to 
the world arena. There are some things one can do, others one cannot, and most 
of the taboos are, of course, things you would be tempted to do, not I. Property 
rights and the incomes produced by them (profits, dividends, rent, interest) can- 
not be interfered with; commercial and financial contracts, debts, mortgages, secu- 
rity provisions are "enforceable" in courts of law. "Free" markets for resources, 
labor power, and consumer goods embody certain norms of participant behavior, 
and these may not be tampered with. Nor, for that matter, is it permissible to 
abrogate or renege on treaty obligations, agreements, commitments, or "under- 
standings" in international affairs, especially when they have been drawn up 
within the political and psychological field of gravity generated by the rules of 
the game. 

A second element of foreign policy ideology is the absolute need for dynamic 
growth and expansion. The almost instinctive goal of an "activist" foreign policy 
(the way the State Department describes its own) is the building up of a struc- 
ture of rewards and compulsions ("carrots and sticks") to assure key profit makers 
at home unimpeded access to external markets and resource areas and to furnish 
some insurance that future expansion into these areas will not be closed off by 
the rise of hostile or Communist governments. The expansion-minded, it follows, 
habitually project their own motivations to their adversaries. Even when Ameri- 
can policymakers judged the Soviet Union and China to be assuming an essen- 
tially defensive posture in international affairs, they accused them of, and at 
times subjectively believed them to be, practicing "aggressive expansionism" 
throughout the world. The growth imperative, like others in American society, 
has been projected outward, externalized. For the past twenty-five years the 
United States has been mobilizing against Russians and Chinese, Cubans and 
Vietnamese. Communism appears to be a constituent which the U.S. corporate 
economy needs in order to keep functioning. 

The third significant input into foreign policy ideology, one which seems to 
have a particular hold on the intellectuals selected out from academic, military, 
and political careers to serve in the policymaking apparatus, is the "bad example" 
syndrome. Means must be devised to discourage the spread of revolutions or 
serious social and economic reforms that might set bad examples for other na- 
tions. This input explains why the central characters of the Pentagon Papers 
place so much credence in the "domino theory" first stated in public by President 
Eisenhower in his press conference of April 7, 1954 (Gravel ed., 1:597), but 
inherent in Washington's thinking about Indochina since mid- 1947, when Secre- 
tary of State George C. Marshall cabled his Ambassador to France that sympathy 
for the Vietnamese in their struggle against French colonialism should be kept 
within bounds: 

Signs [of] development [of] anti-Western Asiatic consciousness [are] already 
multiplying. . . . Unanimity [of] support for Vietnamese among other Asi- 
atic countries [is] very striking, even leading to moves Burma, India, and 
Malaya send volunteer forces their assistance. Vietnam cause proving rally- 
ing-cry for all anti-Western forces and playing in hands Communists all 
areas. We fear continuation conflict may jeopardize position all Western 
democratic powers in Southern Asia and lead to very eventualities of which 
we most apprehensive.® 

Business Ideology and Foreign Policy 19 

It is true that the simplistic, almost physical version of "falling dominoes" put 
forward in 1954 by Eisenhower, a version which postulated a Communist "take- 
over" in one country leading automatically to the loss of one country after 
another in geographical order from the original one, was ridiculed practically 
from the start and became a favorite target for American liberals in the late 
1950s and 1960s. But, as was frequently the case with Eisenhower, awkward 
rhetoric and faulty grammar obscured a deeper reality understood by the U.S. 
power structure. Although a Communist or leftist triumph might not bring about 
immediate collapse in adjacent countries, it would signify a dangerous historical 
and psychological precedent. The "losses" of Russia in 1917, China in 1949, and 
Cuba in 1959 supplied proof that peoples formerly colonized or dominated by 
Western capitalism could indeed create new socioeconomic institutions to deal 
with structural problems of backwardness, poverty, and stagnation, provided they 
could take up the revolutionary option and wield effective control over their own 
resources. The "domino theory" has a grimly convincing ring to it when it sym- 
bolizes this ominous drift of history. Under these circumstances President Ken- 
nedy emphatically affirmed his own faith in the domino theory two months before 
his death: "... I believe it. I believe ... if South Vietnam went, it would not 
only give them an improved geographic position for a guerrilla assault on Malaya 
but would also give the impression that the wave of the future in Southeast Asia 
was China and the Communists. So I believe it" (Gravel ed., 11:828). In June 
1964 when Lyndon Johnson asked the basic question "Would the rest of South- 
east Asia necessarily fall if Laos and South Vietnam came under North Viet- 
namese control?" neither he nor his close advisers paid any heed to the response 
from the CIA Board of National Estimates: "With the possible exception of Cam- 
bodia, it is likely that no nation in the area would quickly succumb to commu- 
nism as a result of the fall of Laos and South Vietnam." Apparently they too 
rejected the simplistic version of "falling dominoes" in favor of the Board's esti- 
mate that the loss of South Vietnam and Laos "would be profoundly damaging 
to the U.S. position in the Far East" because of its impact on America's prestige 
(Gravel ed., 111:127, 178). The CIA Board cautioned that, if South Vietnam 
"went," the Peking leadership would be able to justify its revolutionary policies 
with demonstrated success in Indochina. 

Time and again this prospect of a "successful" revolutionary option is con- 
sidered to be the greatest menace to our own "prestige," "reputation," and 
"credibility," words which recur throughout the Papers. Thus, Assistant Secretary 
of Defense John T. McNaughton was insisting in the fall of 1964 that were we 
to fail in Vietnam, that failure must be made "clear to the world" as having 
been "due to special local factors . . . that do not apply to other nations" and 
that "cannot be generalized beyond South Vietnam" (Gravel ed., 111:657, 583; 
McNaughton's emphasis. See also his "good doctor" prescription for maintaining 
America's global reputation [Gravel ed., 111:559, 582, 604] and William P. 
Bundy's advice that "stronger action" by the United States would enhance our 
image to Asians even if South Vietnam fell [Gravel ed., 111:684-686]). 


In the aftermath of the Second World War the United States faced a new 
array of politico-military problems brought on by the cold war, reduced defense 
budgets, and a more complex military establishment in which air power was be- 
ginning to play an increasingly attractive and politically independent role. The 

20 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

response of the civilian ruling class came in the form of the National Security 
Act of (July) 1947, which created a single, unified military establishment, au- 
thorized a Secretary of Defense to oversee it, and established the National Secu- 
rity Council (NSC) as an advisory body to the President to help in "voluntary 
coordination" of policy. "The Secretary of Defense was not to be the chief ar- 
chitect of defense policy" — this was now placed more firmly than ever under the 
control of civilians outside the Pentagon.-* 

For this reason, the NSC was set up, and for this reason too its precise func- 
tion was left obscure. Statutory membership comprises the President and Vice- 
President, the Secretaries of State and Defense, and the Director of the Office of 
Civil and Defense Mobilization. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and 
the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency are statutory advisers to the 
Council (not members). Beyond that, the President may select his own NSC 
counselors from among other government officials, or he may appoint private 
citizens as informal advisers or consultants. The effect of this act was to 
strengthen the bond between the formal policymaking apparatus culminating in 
the Presidency and the corporate-business-banking sector of the external society. 

Accordingly, the 1947 act opened up a pipeline between the summit of state 
power and the civilian ruling elites, both in and out of government. While it 
created flexible machinery allowing different Presidents to use NSC in different 
ways, it has underscored the role of the civilian economic elite in drafting mili- 
tary and political strategy, and it demonstrates the importance of upper-class 
"outsiders" in molding foreign policy. Foundation experts (often from the 
Council on Foreign Relations) and councils of "wise men" have frequently been 
shuttled in and out of the informal, committee-type NSC structure, particularly 
for major decisions or special crisis management. 

Thanks in good part to NSC, both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations 
were "able to follow military policies which when inaugurated had little support 
from the people," because "the appropriate agencies of the government, not public 
opinion, had the final word," according to Professor Samuel Huntington. In 1953, 
Huntington reports further, the NSC brought in "yet another group of six con- 
sultants . . . and James Black, president of Pacific Gas & Electric Company, 
one of the 'Seven Wise Men' [who had worked on an earlier NSC project]" to 
resolve the continental defense problems posed by the Soviets' acquisition of the 
hydrogen bomb.^^ March 1968, in the wake of the National Liberation Front's 
Tet Offensive in South Vietnam, it was an informal "Senior Advisory Group on 
Vietnam" that prevailed upon Lyndon Johnson to put a ceiling on the resources 
allocated to the Vietnam war, lest price inflation and the balance of payments 
deficit lurch completely out of control. These advisers, some of them well- 
known "hawks" and most having close ties to Wall Street and other corporate 
institutions, forcefully pointed out the dangers to the American economy and its 
overseas interests from continued increases in Vietnam spending. The President 
reluctantly stopped escalating the conflict (Gravel ed., IV:266-276). 

This kind of NSC influence and control is evident in America's involvement 
in Indochina, above all through 1954 when hard, hawkish decisions were made 
that set the stage for later military buildups and eventual escalation. During this 
period, furthermore, the executive secretaries of the NSC were Sidney Souers, a 
successful businessman from St. Louis, and James S. Lay, Jr., a former utility 
company oflficial; Eisenhower's special assistant for NSC affairs was Boston 
bankeV Robert Cutler; and among NSC advisers were corporation lawyers, bank- 
ers, industrialists. The Pentagon Papers contain every critical NSC document 
relating to the Vietnam war — as the continuous references to them in other doc- 

Business Ideology and Foreign Policy 21 

uments (cables, telegrams, reports from other agencies) make clear. And these 
NSC materials are surely the reason why the Pentagon Papers historians claim 
that their "collection [of appended documents] represents the internal commit- 
ment of the U.S. as expressed in classified documents circulated at the highest 
levels in the Government." 

Through the Truman and Eisenhower administrations the major NSC docu- 
ments constitute what I would call "paradigm statements." They evolve out of 
prior periods of policy disarray, doubt, conflict, infighting, or plain indecision. 
Slowly but surely — and sometimes, under pressing crisis, swiftly — this divided 
counsel gives way to consensus, expressed by an NSC position paper. Henceforth 
this "paradigm statement" serves as clearly established policy. It is referred to 
and quoted constantly thereafter. As a set of guidelines it can be modified and 
amended. Eventually, it may even be replaced when it has outlived its usefulness 
or when the decisionmaking structure decides, perhaps, that one segment of it 
should now be more strongly emphasized at the expense of another. 

In discussing these NSC paradigm statements, I shall cite only those through 
the end of 1954 when, to all intents and purposes, U.S. policy for Indochina 
was cast for the next two decades: South Vietnam was held to be vital for Amer- 
ican security, its future was not to be subject to negotiation of any sort, and it 
had to be defended by military action — including U.S. intervention — if need be. 

The key NSC paradigm statements on Indochina through 1954: 

1. NSC 48/1, 23 December 1949 (Gravel ed., I:82)i6 

This was the first policy statement on Indochina, capping three years of grow- 
ing doubts over French diplomatic and military policy and fears about Ho Chi 
Minh's "clear record as agent [of] international communism," as Acting Secretary 
of State Dean Acheson warned the U.S. Consul in Saigon in December 1946 
(Gravel ed., 1:20). Two months later Secretary of State George C. Marshall 
expressed "increasing concern over situation as it is developing in Indochina"; 
the United States could "not lose sight [of] fact that Ho Chi Minh has direct 
Communist connections . . . philosophy and political organizations emanating 
from and controlled by Kremlin." NSC 48/1 also embodied the "domino the- 
ory," first voiced by Marshall in May 1947 (as noted earlier) and repeated in 
1949 by Under Secretary of State James Webb: "If COMMIES gain control IC 
[Indochina], THAI and rest SEA will be imperiled." In March 1949 George 
M. Abbott, U.S. Consul General in Saigon, told Washington that a French with- 
drawal from Vietnam would leave "a Communist-controlled government in a 
strategic area of Southeast Asia," and Secretary of State Acheson was soon in- 
forming his Consul General in Hanoi that "In light Ho's known background, no 
other assumption possible but that he outright Commie. . . ." 

NSC 48/1 established a deep American concern over developing events in 
Southeast Asia, particularly in view of the disintegration of the Nationalist armies 
in China: "the extension of communist authority in China represents a grievous 
political defeat for us ... If Southeast Asia is also swept by communism, we 
shall have suffered a major political rout the repercussions of which will be felt 
throughout the rest of the world, especially in the Middle East and in a then 
critically exposed Australia" (Gravel ed., 1:82). 

But in synthesizing earlier concerns over Indochina and world communism, 
NSC 48/1 took a discrete step upward, into a comprehensive review of the 
political economy of the Far East. Topmost among its considerations was the 
precarious position of Japan, which obviously had to be retained in the free 

22 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

world, to anchor the Pacific flank of the international capitalist system. "A middle 
of the road regime in Japan . . . would in the long-run prove more reliable as 
an ally of the United States than would an extreme right-wing totalitarian gov- 
ernment." This would be the best way for pro-American elements "to exercise 
their influence over government policy and to mold public opinion." 20 Japan 
was seen as the hub of an integrated Asian economy — a free market economy 
whose various parts would be linked together through complementary trading 
patterns, investment and capital goods flows, and technical and financial aid 
programs : 

Asia is a source of numerous raw materials, principally tin and natural 
rubber, which are of strategic importance to the United States, although the 
United States could, as in World War II, rely on other sources if neces- 
sary. . . . 

The United States has an interest in the attainment by the free peoples of 
Asia of that degree of economic recovery and development needed as a foun- 
dation for social and political stability. This interest stems from the principle 
that a viable economy is essential to the survival of independent states. In 
the two major non-Communist countries of this area, India and Japan, U.S. 
aid ... is averting a deterioration in economic conditions that would other- 
wise threaten political stability. While scrupulously avoiding assumption of 
responsibility for raising Asiatic living standards, it is to the U.S. interest to 
promote the ability of these countries to maintain . . . the economic con- 
ditions prerequisite to political stability. Japan can only maintain its present 
living standard on a self-supporting basis if it is able to secure a greater pro- 
portion of its needed food and raw material (principally cotton) imports 
from the Asiatic area, in which its natural markets lie, rather than from the 
U.S., in which its export market is small. In view of the desirability of avoid- 
ing preponderant dependence on Chinese sources, and the limited availability 
of supplies from prewar sources in Korea and Formosa, this will require a 
considerable increase in Southern Asiatic food and raw material exports. 
. . . One major prerequisite to such an increase is the restoration of political 
stability in the food exporting countries of Burma and Indo China. . . . 
Another major prerequisite is expanded agricultural development in the 
stable Southern Asiatic countries in which such development would be eco- 
nomic: India, Pakistan — which exports wheat and cotton, Thailand — which 
exports rice, and Ceylon — whose sizable rice imports reduce the availability 
of Asiatic foodstuffs to India and Japan. Japanese and Indian food require- 
ments, and Japanese cotton requirements, could be met if certain projected 
irrigation, reclamation, and transportation projects were executed. . . . 

These projects will probably require . . . some external technical aid, 
some limited external financial aid. . . . External technical aid should be 
made available under the Point IV program. The external financial aid re- 
quired is of such a limited character that it can probably be adequately pro- 
vided by the International Bank and the Export-Import Bank. . . . 

Through increased sales of rice, wheat, and cotton, Thailand and Pakistan 
could most economically secure the imports of capital and consumer goods 
to develop and diversify their economies. . . . 

Our interest in a viable economy in the non-Communist countries of Asia 
would be advanced by increased trade among such countries. Japanese and 
Indian industrial revival and development can contribute to enlarged intra- 
regional trade relations which suffered a set-back because of the economic 

Business Ideology and Foreign Policy 23 

vacuum resulting from the defeat of Japan . . . and the interference and 
restrictions arising from extensive governmental controls. Given a favorable 
and secure atmosphere — plus adequate freedom to individual traders, readily 
available working capital, suitable commercial agreements establishing con- 
ditions favorable to commerce and navigation and general assistance in the 
promotion of trade — it is expected that a substantial increase in intra-Asia 
trade can occur. 21 

It will be noted that the aim was not general economic and social betterment 
for Asian masses — scrupulous avoidance of that responsibility was recommended, 
along with suitably low aid levels. NSC 48/1 looked upon Indochina as essential 
to a political economy of "stability" that would simply allow Japan in the Pacific 
(and India in South Asia) to remain "non-Communist." 

2. NSC 64, 27 February 1950 (Gravel ed., 1:83, 186-187, 361-362) 

Like NSC 48/1, this document preceded the outbreak of war in Korea. Already 
it was deemed necessary "to protect U.S. security interests in Indochina . . . 
and to prevent the expansion of Communist aggression in that area." The 
domino theory was reiterated. 

3. NSC 68, April 1950 

Still top secret, this important document is not found in the Pentagon Papers. 
Most scholars consider it a cold war turning point, "a document which recom- 
mended a substantial increase in expenditures on national security in a variety of 
ways at a time when further reductions in defense expenditures were under seri- 
ous consideration." 22 it should be included in any survey of Indochina, because 
it brings out the broad, strategic considerations behind American foreign policy 
at this point in time, as well as the kinds of responses U.S. leaders were con- 
templating in "trouble spots" all over the world. It grew out of a comprehensive 
assessment of U.S. foreign policy carried out by a joint State-Defense Department 
study group headed by Paul Nitze (who would later play an important role in the 
Kennedy administration), a partner in the investment banking house of Dillon, 
Read, which was also the home base of James Forrestal, Ferdinand Eberstadt, 
and C. Douglas Dillon, all key figures in postwar foreign policy-making. Calling 
for wholesale U.S. rearmament before the Korean War, NSC 68 was formulated 
amidst rising anguish over Vietnam, China (the Communists had triumphed the 
previous October), and Russia's first atomic bomb (detonated in August 1949, 
three years ahead of American intelligence estimates). It meant "virtual abandon- 
ment by the United States of trying to distinguish between national and global 
security," so that "much of what was done in the Korean buildup would have been 
done, anyway . . . the Korean war remained only a part of the larger picture of 
the national strategy. For most people who knew anything about it, NSC-68 
represented that larger picture." 23 

At this juncture too, in May 1950, the United States began its fateful program 
of direct economic and military aid to French forces in Indochina (Gravel ed., 

4. NSC 48/5, May 17, 1951 24 

Desirable now was "development of power relationships in Asia which will 
make it impossible for any nation or alliance to threaten the security of the 

24 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 

United States from that area."" Continded emphasis was placed on the necessity 
for Japan "contributing to the security and stabiUty of the Far East." 

5. NSC 124/1, February 13, 1952 (Gravel ed., 1:375-381) 

"Indochina is of far greater strategic importance than Korea . . . [and] criti- 
cal to U.S. security interests." "The fall of Southeast Asia would underline the 
apparent economic advantages to Japan of association with the communist- 
dominated Asian sphere." Furthermore: 

Exclusion of Japan from trade with Southeast Asia would seriously affect 
the Japanese economy, and increase Japan's dependence on United States 
aid. In the long run the loss of Southeast Asia, especially Malaya and Indo- 
nesia, could result in such economic and political pressures in Japan as to 
make it extremely difficult to prevent Japan's eventual accommodation to 
the Soviet Bloc. 

Southeast Asia ... is the principal world source of natural rubber and 
tin. Access to these materials by the Western Powers and their denial to the 
Soviet bloc is important at all times . . . [rice surpluses and petroleum are 
also cited in this respect]. 

Communist domination of mainland Southeast Asia would place un- 
friendly forces astride the most direct and best-developed sea and air routes 
between the Western Pacific and India and the Near East. 

6. NSC 124/2, June 25, 1952 (Gravel ed., I: 384-390) 

This document repeated the heavy geopolitical-economy articulation of NSC 
124/1 and added a statement of what the Pentagon Papers historians call "the 
'domino principle' in its purest form" (Gravel ed., 1:83-84). These historians 
ignore, however, another highly significant step toward direct American involve- 
ment in Indochina: a provision that if French energies in pursuing the war begin 
to flag, the United States should, first, "oppose a French withdrawal," and then 
"consider taking unilateral action." 

7. Progress Report on NSC 124/2, August 5, 1953 
(Gravel ed., 1:405-410) 

France's lack of success in Indochina was traced largely to failure "to frustrate 
nationalist appeal of the Viet Minh" and "to plan and execute aggressive military 
operations." "In general," the official historians write of this period, "the U.S. 
sought to convince the French that military victory was the only guarantee of 
diplomatic success" (Gravel ed., 1:96). French Prime Minister Joseph Laniel, 
undoubtedly under intense pressure from Washington, was promising the Ameri- 
cans that he could "keep his government's support without going further in [the] 
direction of negotiations. . . ." 

8. NSC 5405, January 16, 1954 (Gravel ed., 1:434-443). 

As French armed forces were being harder pressed by the Viet Minh, little 
doubt remained about the importance of Indochina: "Communist domination, by 
whatever means, of all Southeast Asia would seriously endanger in the short term. 

Business Ideology and Foreign Policy 25 

and critically endanger in the longer term, United States security interests." Thus, 
the United States should assist France in fashioning an aggressive military pro- 
gram "to ehminate organized Viet Minh forces by mid- 1955." Again, stress was 
placed on "the interrelation of the countries of the area," and the "serious eco- 
nomic consequences" stemming from the losses of natural rubber, tin, petroleum, 
and other strategically important resources, including "the rice exports of Burma, 
Indochina and Thailand . . . , of considerable significance to Japan and India." 
Echoing NSC 124/1, this paper went on to warn that 

The loss of Southeast Asia would have serious economic consequences for 
many nations of the free world. . . . [This] could result in such economic 
and political pressures in Japan as to make it extremely difficult to prevent 
Japan's eventual accommodation to communism. 

Events now unfolded at a quicker pace, as the specter of French military 
defeat loomed at Dienbienphu (it materialized on May 7, 1954). On March 17, 
1954, an NSC Memorandum asserted that "The French desire for peace in Indo- 
china almost at any cost represents our greatest vulnerability in the Geneva talks," 
scheduled to begin on April 26 (Gravel ed., 1:452). On April 5, as debate was 
heating up in Washington over whether U.S. forces should be openly committed 
to combat to aid the weakening French, an NSC Action Paper foresaw a "pos- 
sibility that a trend in the direction of the loss of Indochina to Communist con- 
trol may become irreversible over the next year in the absence of greater U.S. 
participation" (Gravel ed., 1:463). In addition, a Special (Presidential) Commit- 
tee for review of NSC 5405 decided that, as a statement of policy, NSC 5405 
"remains valid," and that, in keeping with the strategic considerations it outlined, 
"defeat of the Viet Minh in Indo-China is essential if the spread of Communist 
influence in Southeast Asia is to be halted." Its final recommendation: "It be U.S. 
policy to accept nothing short of a military victory in Indo-China" (Gravel ed., 
1:472-474; emphasis added). 

In public too, it is interesting to note, the Eisenhower admmistration was re- 
peating the policy rationales of its NSC deliberations. In an address before the 
Overseas Press Club in New York on March 29, 1954, Secretary of State Dulles 
described the importance of Indochina. Among other factors, Dulles claimed, 
"Southeast Asia is the so-called 'rice bowl' which helps to feed the densely pop- 
ulated region that extends from India to Japan. It is rich in many raw materials, 
such as tin, oil, rubber, and iron ore. It offers industrial Japan potentially impor- 
tant markets and sources of raw materials." Dulles continued: 

The area has great strategic value. Southeast Asia is astride the most direct 
and best-developed sea and air routes between the Pacific and South Asia. 
It has major naval and air bases (Gravel ed., 1:594-595). 

These sentences came almost verbatim from NSC 124/1. They were again trotted 
out on April 1 1 by Under Secretary of State Walter Bedell Smith in a television 
interview (Gravel ed., 1:598). 

9. NSC 5421, June 1, 1954^^ 

This publication was a collection of agency reports "prepared on the assump- 
tion that U.S. armed forces intervene in the conflict in Indochina. . . ." 

26 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

10. NSC 5429/2, August 20, 1954^'^ 

The French defeat at Dienbienphu and the "unfavorable" nature of the Geneva 
Accords of July 21, 1954, have led to "loss of prestige in Asia suffered by the 
U.S. as a backer of the French and the Bao Dai Government." As a result "U.S. 
prestige will inescapably be associated with subsequent developments in South- 
east Asia." It should be America's goal, then, "to maintain and support friendly 
non-Communist governments in Cambodia and Laos, to maintain a friendly non- 
Communist South Vietnam, and to prevent a Communist victory through all- 
Vietnam elections." 

11. NSC 5429/5, December 22, 1954 

Washington's resolve was hardening (Gravel ed., 1:214-221). Military action 
was now being discussed as a concrete possibility, "subject to prior submission 
to and approval by the Congress unless the emergency is deemed by the Presi- 
dent to be so great that immediate action is necessary. . . ." This clause was 
soon to be invoked as the basis of "U.S. policy in the event of a renewal of hos- 
tilities by the Communists" after the miscarriage of the all-Vietnam elections 
called for in the Geneva Accords. 

Finally, as the official historians also appear to believe (Gravel ed., 1:121), 
the old American idea of "rollback" resurfaced: 

While there is now no reason to anticipate an early collapse of the [Chinese 
Communist] regime nor any means of seeing when one might occur, inher- 
ently such regimes have elements of rigidity and instability which sometimes 
produce crises. We should be ready to exploit any opportunities which might 
occur as a result of inherent internal weaknesses. . . . Reduction of Chi- 
nese Communist power and prestige, or securing by reorientation a Govern- 
ment on the mainland of China whose objectives do not conflict with the 
vital interests of the United States [should now be U.S. policy]. 

The policymaking role of NSC was somewhat de-emphasized during the Ken- 
nedy-Johnson years. NSC became more an appendage of the White House for- 
eign policy staff, and McGeorge Bundy was its manager. Still, "National Security 
Action Memoranda" were the chosen means for denoting major policy steps and 
setting them up as precedents "to guide national policy" (Gravel ed., 111:9). As 
far as Indochina decisions were concerned, the slight change in policymaking 
form implied no change in content. What is striking about the NSAM documents 
for the Kennedy administration is that the "commitment" to South Vietnam was 
no longer questioned. The NSAMs show total programmatic continuity and 
deal almost exclusively with force levels, tactics, the efficiency and durability of 
the Diem Government, and issues raised by "wars of national liberation" and 
counterinsurgency. (See, for example, NSAM 52 and NSAM 124: Gravel ed., 
11:642-643 and 660-661.) NSC papers of the 1950s were also alluded to, though 
not always explicitly. In a speech before the Economic Club of Detroit in April 
1963, Deputy Under Secretary of State U. Alexis Johnson used the same lan- 
guage from NSC 124/1 — then eleven years old — as Dulles and Smith had in 
1954 (Gravel ed., 11:817). Two years later before the same forum Deputy Un- 
der Secretary Leonard Unger followed suit (Gravel ed., 111:731). 

As the situation in South Vietnam underwent progressive deterioration in the 

Business Ideology and Foreign Policy 27 

early 1960s the U.S. military intervention envisioned in 1954 appeared increas- 
ingly necessary. The first major move in that direction came in April and May of 
1961, with John F. Kennedy's decision to dispatch 400 U.S. special forces sol- 
diers and 100 other military advisers to the Diem government and to begin a 
campaign of covert military operations against North Vietnam (Gravel ed., 
11:38-55, 637-643). In November 1961 the Kennedy administration took an- 
other step forward, sharply expanding the U.S. military mission and putting 
American troops in combat-support roles (Gravel ed., 11:102-120). At the time 
of Kennedy's assassination, 16,000 U.S. troops were stationed in South Vietnam, 
as opposed to 685 when he took office. In December 1963 Defense Secretary 
McNamara sounded the alarm over impending Communist victory in South Viet- 
nam or neutralization of that country (Gravel ed., 111:494-496). NSAM 273, 
November 26, 1963, and NSAM 288, March 17, 1964, reaffirmed "the central 
object of the United States in South Vietnam ... to win the contest against 
the externally directed and supported Communist conspiracy" (Gravel ed.. Ill: 
7-9, 50-58, 496-500). Three days after NSAM 288, President Johnson in- 
structed his Ambassador to Saigon, Henry Cabot Lodge, "that your mission is 
precisely for the purpose of knocking down the idea of neutralization wherever 
it rears its ugly head . . . nothing is more important than to stop neutralist talk 
wherever we can by whatever means we can" (Gravel ed., 111:511). 

All along the road to escalation, to be sure, John Kennedy and Lyndon John- 
son expressed doubts. But never could they or their advisers bring themselves to 
break with the momentum and sheer force of six to ten years of solid policy com- 
mitments. What chief executive could have done that? Only one with an alto- 
gether different outlook upon the flow of world history and America's role in 
that historical process. Neither JFK nor LBJ was that man. Nor is it likely that 
any such man could have gained either the Democratic or Republican Presiden- 
tial nomination, let alone the Presidency, under the prevailing political structure 
in the United States and the larger economic interests and business ideology it 


From the NSC documents of 1949-1954, and beyond, emerge four themes in 
the making of U.S. policy toward Indochina. 

1. Southeast Asia was viewed as an essential part of a Pacific rimlands po- 
litical economy composed of several interdependent units and revolving about 
Japan as a nucleus.^^ 

2. Were any part of this political economy to "fall" or to opt out of the free 
(enterprise) world, the repercussions would be felt throughout the area, partic- 
ularly in Japan, which had to have access to a wide hinterland for economic 
growth and expansion.^^ 

3. "Loss" of any of Indochina would have further grave domino effects, of a 
psychological and political nature, on America's power as a guarantor of "order" 
and "stability." 

4. No negotiations whatever were to be considered with Communists over the 
future of Southeast Asia. 

A number of corollaries followed from such policy axioms. For instance, loss 
of territory to the Communists in itself constituted a U.S. defeat even if accom- 
panied by diplomatic success (Gravel ed., 1:176-178). Thus, "rollback" of Com- 
munist power, acknowledged to be an exceedingly dangerous idea, was nonethe- 

28 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

less a policy option to be held in reserve should the opportunity arise. In his 
April 7, 1954, press conference President Eisenhower claimed that a Viet Minh 
victory in Southeast Asia "takes away, in its economic aspects, that region that 
Japan must have as a trading area or . . , have only one place in the world to 
go — that is, toward the Communist areas in order to live" (Gravel ed., 1:597). 
In a New York Times interview thirteen years later (December 24, 1967) the 
former President, probably recalling 1953-1954 NSC discussions and policy 
papers, adduced the same dangers to Japan and added: "Probably the less said 
about that right now the better, but the plain fact is that no prosperous free 
society based on the private enterprise system can expect to exist indefinitely 
alongside a sprawling police state like Communist China and its satellites." This 
hinted that ultimately we might have to extirpate communism in Asia in order 
to make Japan and other "free" countries secure. 

America's cold war policymakers have shared an amazingly expansive concept 
of U.S. "national security." Can it be accidental that this concept is a mirror 
image of the feverish growth dynamic of corporate business? Or is it, as Pro- 
fessor Robert Tucker argues in dismissing the primacy of economic factors be- 
hind American foreign policy, that economic statements like the ones I quote 
above are made by U.S. leaders "largely to elicit support for a policy that is 
pursued primarily for quite different reasons"? 

Tucker is not altogether incorrect. Immediate policy decisions often have little 
to do with demonstrable economic benefits. It would be pure idealism to reduce 
North American or Western European politics to the rational interests of "capi- 
talism" in the abstract. The process by which economic forces are ultimately 
determinant is a complex one in which in specific situations the decisive factors 
may well be political, psychological, or social. But several points must be kept in 
mind with respect to American foreign policy, and its Indochina disaster. 

In the first place, the economic declarations contained in the Pentagon Papers 
were not intended as rhetoric for public consumption. The NSC documents in 
particular were internal working papers "for eyes only" — official eyes. It should 
be clearly stated, secondly, what noneconomic purposes — what "quite different 
reasons" — underlie U.S. foreign policy. Here, Tucker is consistent. He grants 
that "America's universalism has been throughout indistinguishable from Amer- 
ica's expansionism. In the period that has followed the initial years of the cold 
war, it is the expansionist interest that has become increasingly dominant." 
The reason for this expansionism, Tucker alleges, is an "exaggerated" sense of 
security, due to "the fear arising simply from the loss of preponderance itself." 
U.S. policymakers, possessing "inordinate power," will be "ready to use it if only 
in order to rule over others," just as powerful men have done throughout his- 

But can Tucker show — can anyone? — that such American foreign policy de- 
cisions have ever been made on grounds recognizably injurious to the dominant 
economic power centers? The "quite different reasons" usually turn out to be 
providentially consistent with the palpable economic interests of the corporate 
upper class who — it must be repeated — have occupied the key foreign policy 
posts in Washington in the present century. 

The fact is that America's policymakers exercise both functions at once: they 
represent the economic elite and the national interest as traditionally understood 
in Machtpolitik terms. Bound up in a seamless web relationship, these two func- 
tions cannot be segregated by any neat boundary. To do so would be dialectically 
meaningless. The economic blazes paths for the political and the military (as in 
Latin America), and state power is utilized in ways that rarely clash with pos- 

Business Ideology and Foreign Policy 29 

sibilities for external economic expansion (as in Asia). While Marxists talk 
about "unity of theory and practice," capitalists achieve it, and on an inter- 
national plane. The interests of the giant U.S. corporations and banks, as their 
executives never cease to proclaim in their own annual reports and elsewhere, are 
international. Why should they not fear "international communism"? Capitalism 
itself was the very first global system. Long before communism existed, Great 
Britain, the pioneer industrial nation, was trading, investing, banking abroad and 
leading the way toward creation of a true international market economy after 
1850. From this moment any basic threat to these institutional arrangements had 
to be "international," almost by definition. 

America's foreign policymakers do have legitimate fears. And they project 
them within the channels of statecraft and diplomacy which have been an in- 
herent element of the foreign aff'airs bureaucracies of all great powers since Louis 
XIV's France. Thus, they enthusiastically respond to challenges of strategic 
necessity and national interest. Doing so reinforces the self-esteem that elites 
need to rationalize their own exalted positions in the social hierarchy. They are 
important men because they are dealing with transcendentally important matters. 
In their own minds they must satisfy themselves that they are promoting "na- 
tional security," "international stability," '^^ "world justice," all issues loftily above 
mundane considerations like (as Joseph Schumpeter used to ask) "who stands to 
gain?" The official mentality is shaped by the policymakers' sober consciousness 
of themselves as a deserving political elite, men endowed with all the advantages 
of (what passes for) a cultivated upbringing. "Trained for public service and 
somewhat 'cosmopolitan' in outlook, it regards itself as uniquely qualified for 
leadership, especially in foreign affairs." It believes itself to be a vanguard, 
willing to accept the "terrible responsibilities" and risks of world power, from 
which many of its less intrepid countrymen shrink. What we see operating here 
is the psychological counterpart of socioeconomic privilege. 

It is no surprise that some of these powerful men — the Nixons, Rusks, McNa- 
maras — become true believers in the "Communist conspiracy." This too, how- 
ever, serves the rhetoric of self-justification required to organize society and cul- 
ture along corporate, neocapitalist lines. For if much of America's ruling class 
is really convinced that communism and socialism are deadly, subversive, aggres- 
sive, externally directed menaces, we must remember not only that these beliefs 
are an integral part of a process of internal justification, not only that in broad 
historical terms the proposition harbors a grain of truth, but that selective belief 
is a result of class breeding and class philosophy. U.S. leaders have been con- 
ditioned to oppose the Left all around the world because revolutionary aspira- 
tions and movements objectively threaten the framework of their own social sys- 
tem, the framework within which they formulate policy and influence the fate 
of millions of people inside their own country and out. That this power is exer- 
cised irresponsibly and immorally is something that the Left has long believed. 
The Pentagon Papers now provide proof. 


1. See the lists of instances of the use of U.S. armed forces abroad, inserted in the 
Congressional Record by Sen. Barry Goldwater, 117 (April 26, 1971), S5636-47 and 
Sen. Everett Dirksen, 115 (June 23, 1969), S16839-44. 

2. Gabriel Kolko, The Roots of American Foreign Policy (Boston: Beacon Press, 
1969), 9, 26. 

30 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

3. Kolko, Roots, ch. 1; G. William Domhoff, Who Rules America? (Englewood 
Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967), chs. 2 and 3, and "Who Made American Foreign 
policy, 1945-1963?" in David Horowitz, ed., Corporations and the Cold War (New 
York: Monthly Review, 1969), reprinted in Domhoff's The Higher Circles: The Gov- 
erning Class in America (New York: Random House, 1970), ch. 5. 

4. Harry Magdoff, The Age of Imperialism (New York: Monthly Review, 1969), 


5. See Arthur MacEwan, "Capitalist Expansion, Ideology, and Intervention," in 
Richard C. Edwards et al., The Capitalist System: A Radical Analysis of American So- 
ciety (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972). 

6. "Students Assail Defense System," New York Times, October 12, 1969. 

7. See Walter LaFeber, America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1966 (New York: 
Wiley, 1967), chs. 1-4; and William A. Williams, "The Cold War Revisionists," The 
Nation, 205 (November 13, 1967). In the post- World War II period, according to Pro- 
fessor Samuel P. Huntington, "the dominant feature of international politics . . . was 
the expansion of the power of the United States. A critical feature of this expansion 
was the extension of American power into the vacuums that were left after the decline 
of the European influence in Asia, Africa, and even Latin America. . . . Americans de- 
voted much attention to the expansion of Communism (which, in fact, expanded very 
little after 1949), and in the process they tended to ignore the expansion of the United 
States influence and presence throughout much of the world." "Political Development 
and the Decline of the American System of World Order," Daedalus, 96 (Summer 
1967), 927. 

8. Telegram to U.S. Embassy in Paris, May 13, 1947, in United States-Vietnam Re- 
lations 1945-1967. Study Prepared by the Department of Defense (Washington: Printed 
for the use of the House Committee on Armed Services, 1971), Book 8, 100-102. This 
is the U.S. Government edition of the Pentagon Papers, and will hereafter be cited as 
USG ed. 

9. Paul Y. Hammond, Organizing for Defense: The American Military Establish- 
ment in the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), 228, 231; 
Samuel P. Huntington, The Common Defense: Strategic Programs in National Politics 
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1961), 114-115, 378-81; Kolko, Roots, 37-47. 

10. See Hammond, Organizing for Defense, 353-357, 227-232. 

11. See Domhoff, "Who Made American Foreign Policy?" 41-46, reprinted in The 
Higher Circles, 128-135. 

12. Huntington, The Common Defense, 241, 333-334. 

13. See Townsend Hoopes (Under Secretary of the Air Force at the time). The 
Limits of Intervention (New York: McKay, 1969), ch. 10, published in an earlier ver- 
sion in The Atlantic, 224 (October 1969). Hoopes's account is in close agreement with 
that of the New York Times special report of March 7, 1969. 

14. See the references in note 11, as well as Hoopes, Limits of Intervention, 2-5. 

15. Foreword to Books 8 and 9 of USG ed. 

16. The complete document can be found in USG ed.. Book 8, 225-272, which in- 
cludes NSC 48/2, appended on 30 December 1949. 

17. USG ed.. Book 8, 98-99; Telegram to U.S. Embassy in Paris, February 3, 1947. 

18. Ibid., 219-222; Cable to U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, 20 June 1949. 

19. Ibid., 155-157, 196; Memo on Indochina, March 31, 1949, and cable to U.S. 
Consul in Hanoi, May 20, 1949. 

20. Ibid., 241. 

21. Ibid., 256-261. 

22. Hammond, Organizing for Defense, 347. 

23. Cabell Phillips, The Truman Presidency: The History of a Triumphant Succession 
(New York: Macmillan, 1966), 305-308. On NSC 68, see also Huntington, The Com- 
mon Defense, 47-53 and 220-221. 

24. USG ed.. Book 8, 425-445. The quotation is from 428, with emphasis added. 

25. USG ed.. Book 9, 202; Cable from Paris to Secretary of State, November 30, 

26. Ibid., 510-529. 

Business Ideology and Foreign Policy 31 

27. USG ed., Book 10, 731-741. 

28. Ibid., 835-852. 

29. Cited, for instance, on June 13, 1955 {ibid., 984). On Dulles's scheme for 
"legally" preventing elections, see his April 6, 1955, cable to Saigon, ibid., 892-893. On 
the failure to hold the elections called for in the Geneva Accords, see I, 182-183, 208- 
209, 239-241. 

30. USG ed., Book 10, 837, 839. See also the CIA Special Estimate of December 15, 
1953,1, 432 (8c). 

31. Except by Ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith, who got nowhere. See 
II, 121-125, 147, 669-672. 

32. For recent surveys, see Peter Wiley, "Vietnam and the Pacific Rim Strategy," 
Leviathan, 1 (June 1969) and Carl Oglesby and R. Shaull, Containment and Change 
(New York: Macmillan, 1967), ch. 5, esp. 121-130. Professor Robert W. Tucker finds 
this interpretation of U.S. policy in the Far East "difficult to take seriously." American 
leaders have expressed such views, Tucker admits, but "at best . . . citation of these 
views proves no more than conviction, and a mistaken conviction at that." The Radical 
Left and American Foreign Policy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1971), 116-117. 
One might think that "conviction," even if mistaken, provides a rather reliable guide to 
the formulation and execution of policy. 

33. Revival of Japan, naturally, has posed another kind of dilemma for the United 
States: that of a tough competitor in the markets of the world. On the contradictions of 
U.S. policy toward Japan, see Walter LaFeber, "Our Illusory Affair with Japan," The 
Nation, 206 (March 11, 1968) and Tom Engelhardt and Jim Peck, "Japan: Rising Sun 
in the Pacific," Ramparts, 10 (January 1972). 

34. Tucker, The Radical Left, 61. This book, despite its weaknesses, is the most 
astute and fair-minded critique of the radical view of U.S. foreign policy. Most radicals 
will benefit from reading it. 

35. Ibid., 108. 

36. Ibid., 69, 105, 151. 

37. Tucker nowhere takes into account the evidence on this point in Kolko and Dom- 
hoff (see notes 3 and 11). 

38. But see the NSC documents for the kind of "stability" the United States prefers 
— not Ho Chi Minh's brand. 

39. Christopher Lasch, "The Making of the War Class," Columbia Forum, 1, New 
Series (Winter 1971), 3. 


3. A Vietnamese Viewpoint 
by Truong Buu Lam 

When the President of the United States declares that American troops will re- 
main in the southern part of Vietnam as long as needed to preserve the Viet- 
namese people's right to self-determination, what he means, quite simply, is that 
the American military shall not leave Vietnam until a pro-American government 
in Saigon manages to survive on its own and so maintain that part of Vietnam 
within the American sphere of influence. It is the self-reliance of a pro-U.S. 
government then that is at issue, not the self-determination of the Vietnamese 
people, and certainly not the relationship of the Vietnamese people toward that 
government. From the beginning until now, that has been the primary concern 
of U.S. policy-makers. The Pentagon Papers demonstrate this clearly, 
and the Nixon administration recently reiterated the position in unmistakable 
terms. In his news conference of January 1, 1972, Mr. Nixon imparted the im- 
pression that the release, by the Democratic Republic of North Vietnam, of U.S. 
prisoners of war remained the sole obstacle to a total withdrawal of American 
forces from Vietnam. The very next day, however, an administration spokesman 
hurriedly modified the presidential statement: ". . . as in the past, he said, the 
survivability of the Saigon government of President Nguyen van Thieu remains 
a second condition for a total U.S. pull-out" (The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Jan- 
uary 3, 1972). Again, in his speech of January 25, although Mr. Nixon did 
commit his administration to withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam within six 
months were his latest plan accepted, that plan contained conditions that 
amounted to a demand that the NLF lay down their arms and surrender to the 
Saigon authorities. 

My task in this paper is to stress the deception which most have now come 
to see as a deception: that the interests of the Vietnamese people counted for 
something in Washington policymaking. With the publication of the Pentagon 
Papers, Americans can no longer grope for respectability with the adage that 
"We went in with good intentions." 

When, at the American Historical Association meeting in 1971, two of the 
authors of the Pentagon Papers, Leslie Gelb and Daniel Ellsberg, were questioned 
on the lack of material relating to social conditions in Vietnam in the Papers, 
they replied: ". . . if the study failed to deal with the underlying social and 
human conditions in Vietnam, it was because these conditions were not being 
considered by American policy-makers" (The New York Times, Thursday, De- 
cember 30, 1971). 

Of course one did not need the Pentagon Papers to learn that, from Truman's 
administration on, altruistic concern for the welfare of the Vietnamese people 
meant nothing more than a very sick public relations joke to Washington. Bombs, 
defoliants, prisoners in tiger cages, political assassinations — these represent the 

Copyright © 1972 by Truong Buu Lam. 

A Vietnamese Viewpoint 33 

net contribution of the United States to the welfare of Vietnam. Of interest in 
the Pentagon Papers, rather, is the unfolding of a policy which, while constantly 
holding certain American interests in focus, sought to secure those interests with 
increasingly desperate means, under increasingly untenable conditions. 

In reviewing all the decisions made which propelled the United States into 
Vietnam, President Roosevelt's stand apart, in that his attitude toward Indochina 
seems to have included a measure of concern for the area's well-being. Having 
been drawn into a war in the Pacific with Japan, Roosevelt developed an interest 
in the affairs of Southeast Asia. Possibly irate during the war over Vichy's poli- 
cy of surrendering to the Japanese and so effecting a cooperative relationship 
between local colonial administrators and the Japanese army, Roosevelt decided, 
in 1944, that Indochina should not be returned to France, but that it should be, 
instead, administered by an international trusteeship. 

. . . France has had the country — 30 million inhabitants for nearly one 
hundred years, and the people are worse off than they were at the begin- 
ning. . . . France has milked it for a hundred years. The people of Indo- 
China are entitled to something better than that (Gravel edition, 1:10). 

The trusteeship concept was approved by Russia and China, but it met strong 
opposition from France and, understandably, Britain, which feared that its own 
possessions would be lost to the concept. Another factor still was to hinder the 
establishment of a trusteeship. In early 1945, the status of the Pacific islands 
captured by the Allies from the Japanese came under the consideration of various 
departments of the U.S. government. The Department of War and the Navy 
"advocated their retention under U.S. control as military bases" (Gravel ed., 
1:14). Avid for one set of territories, Roosevelt found it difficult to deny France 
another. In a statement issued by the State Department on April 3, 1945, the 
United States left the question of the international trusteeship of colonial ter- 
ritories on a fully voluntary basis, that is, up to the colonialists. Roosevelt, how- 
ever, did not quite abandon his plan for Indochina. Earlier, in March, the Sec- 
retary of State had in fact drafted a statement in which the United States would 
explicitly pledge to "do all it can to be of assistance" to the French government 
in the latter's moves in reconquering Indochina from the Japanese. Roosevelt 
refused to issue that statement. 

After Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945, his lingering influence could be 
seen in the initial U.S. refusal to help the French reestablish their control over 
Indochina. Which is not to say that the United States favored the Vietnamese, 
either, who, by mid-August, had gained control over the entire territory of Viet- 
nam and, by September 2, 1945, established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. 
In the American neutral stance, one could already see the balance tilt in France's 
favor, as indicated in the following document, possibly a telegram sent by the 
State Department to the American representative in Paris, or Saigon: 

US has no thought of opposing the reestablishment of French control in 
Indochina and no official statement by US GOVT has questioned even by 
implication French sovereignty over Indochina. However, it is not the policy 
of this GOVT to assist the French to reestablish their control over Indo- 
china by force and the willingness of the US to see French control reestab- 
lished assumes that French claim to have the support of the population of 
Indochina is borne out by future events (Gravel ed., 1:16-17). 

34 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

Between 1945 and 1950, at which time the U.S. government definitively com- 
mitted itself to the French side in the Franco-Vietnamese conflict, U.S. policy 
toward Vietnam developed in three distinct stages, in none of which were the 
interests of the Vietnamese people to count for anything. 

First, the United States categorically refused to recognize Ho Chi Minh and 
his organization, the Viet Minh, as the true, legal representatives of the new 
Vietnamese state. In late 1945 and early 1946, the President of the United States 
and his Secretary of State received at least eight communications from Ho Chi 
Minh asking for U.S. recognition of Vietnam's independence, and even for the 
establishment of an international trusteeship over Vietnam. The United States 
chose to leave all those messages unanswered (Gravel ed., 1:50). It paid no 
attention to Ho Chi Minh because, as the then Secretary of State put it in his 
telegram to the American representative in Hanoi, Ho had a "clear record as 
agent of international communism." What the American diplomat in Vietnam 
should try to avoid, he went on to say, is the "establishment of a Communist- 
dominated, Moscow-oriented state [in] Indochina" (Gravel ed., 1:20). 

Having decided to reject the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the United 
States sought to forward French interests more and more. The Franco-Vietnamese 
war broke out at a time when the United States was involved in helping Europe 
rebuild its economy out of the ruins of World War II. The Vietnamese war also 
coincided with British and French moves to check Soviet influence in Europe. 
Under the circumstances, the United States found it impractical to disassociate 
itself from the French recapture of Indochina. The French, for their part, dis- 
covered early in the conflict the usefulness of waging colonial wars under the 
guise of anticommunism. The merging of American interests with those of West- 
ern Europe is clearly demonstrated in the following instructions the State De- 
partment sent to its diplomats in Paris and Vietnam: 

Key our position is our awareness that in respect developments affecting 
position Western democratic powers in southern Asia, we essentially in 
same boat as French, also as British and Dutch. We cannot conceive set- 
backs to long-range interests France which would not also be our own 
(Gravel ed., 1:31). 

The commentator of the Pentagon Papers states rightly that, in those years, 
the United States "cared less about Vietnam than about France" (Gravel ed., 
1:51), and that "compared with European recovery, and escape from communist 
domination, the United States considered the fate of Vietnamese nationalism rela- 
tively insignificant" (Gravel ed., 1:29). 

The third stage in the evolution of U.S. policy paved the way for the ensuing 
civil war. Being hostile to the government of President Ho Chi Minh, the United 
States put pressure on France to create an alternative Vietnamese government. 
The State Department itself instructed its representatives in Vietnam to gather all 
information available pertaining to the "strength of non-Communist elements in 
Vietnam" (Gravel ed., 1:21). The search for a non-Communist Vietnamese re- 
gime was clearly stated to the French in February of 1947. While the United 
States "fully recognized France's sovereign position in that area [Indochina]," 
it advised France to abandon "its outmoded colonial outlook and methods." 
France was to emulate the outstanding examples of Britain and the Netherlands 
in their respective colonies, and yield a measure of autonomy to the Vietnamese. 
Still, the United States "does not lose sight the fact that Ho Chi Minh has direct 
Communist connections and it should be obvious that we are not interested in 

A Vietnamese Viewpoint 35 

seeing colonial empire administrations supplanted by philosophy and political 
organizations emanating from and controlled by Kremlin" (Gravel ed., 1:31). 
By the end of 1947, the French did, indeed, establish contact with Bao Dai, the 
former emperor of Vietnam, with the intention of using him to form a mildly 
independent, but above all anticommunist, government. The United States, for 
its part, devoted all its resources to bring about the Bao Dai solution. In 1948, 
the State Department instructed its ambassador in Paris to urge the French gov- 
ernment to leave nothing undone "which will strengthen truly nationalist groups 
in Indochina and induce present supporters of the Viet Minh to come to the 
side of that group" (Gravel ed., 1:32). The United States justly estimated that 
it would be impossible for any Vietnamese leader to form a government, or rally 
popular support, without displaying a modicum of independence. The French, 
however, were not quite willing to yield even a fraction of their prewar privileges. 
Finally, U.S. pressure assumed its familiar financial form. The American am- 
bassador in Paris informed the French Foreign Minister that the United States 
was willing "to consider assisting French Government with respect to matter of 
financial aid for Indochina through ECA but could not give consideration to 
altering its present policy in this regard unless real progress made in reaching 
non-Communist solution in Indochina based on cooperation of true nationalists 
of that country" (Gravel ed., 1:33). 

Immediately on February 2, 1950, when the French government announced 
the ratification by the French National Assembly of the independence of Vietnam, 
the United States extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Vietnam, 
headed by Bao Dai. On February 16, 1950, France requested military and eco- 
nomic assistance in prosecuting the war in Indochina, and rapidly obtained it. 
In May 1950, the United States publicly announced the beginning of military 
and economic aid to the government of Bao Dai. An aid mission was estab- 
lished in Vietnam a few days later. 

From 1950 on, U.S. policy toward Vietnam was not unlike what Washington 
now calls "Vietnamization," except that then, both the French and the Viet- 
namese were being used. On the one hand, the United States gave France enough 
money and military equipment to stave off its military defeat; on the other, it 
siphoned enough aid to the Bao Dai government to enable it to raise an army of 
Vietnamese men, equipped with modern Western weapons, trained by French of- 
ficers, to fight other Vietnamese men. 

Less than a year after the Communist victory in China, and at about the time 
of the outbreak of the Korean war, the United States became totally committed to 
France's aims in Vietnam. The events in China and Korea did not, as often sup- 
posed, incite the United States to blindly adopt an anticommunist stance vis-d-vis 
Vietnam. That course of action, as we are now able to trace it, had been set back 
in late 1946. The anti-Ho Chi Minh, pro-French, and then pro-Bao Dai policies 
stemmed from one and the same preoccupation of the State Department's: to 
stop "Moscow-oriented regimes" in Asia and in Western Europe from becoming 
a strong defense shield for the Soviet Union. That the United States, along with 
much of Western Europe, should have feared the Communist threat to their hith- 
erto comfortable world of empires and colonies is understandable. What the 
United States failed to grasp, however, was that socialism, wedded to the desire for 
independence, had become a formidable local force in many of the old colonies, 
and that no alleged links to the Kremlin would explain it away. At every stage in 
the evolution of U.S. policy toward Vietnam, the United States was warned of 
this analytical confusion by its own agents, or by people familiar with the prob- 
lem. The State Department made its decisions in full knowledge of the data. For 

36 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

example, the State Department knew of Ho Chi Minh's commitment to the Com- 
munist ideology. It also knew perfectly well that Russia had had very little to do 
in Vietnam. According to a report from the Office of Intelligence Research of 
the Department of State itself, "evidence of Kremlin-directed conspiracy was 
found in virtually all countries [of Southeast Asia] except Vietnam" (Gravel ed., 
1:34). The United States chose to side with France against Vietnam when its Di- 
rector in the Office of Far Eastern Affairs in the State Department wrote the fol- 
lowing memorandum: 

Although the French in Indochina have made far-reaching paper-concessions 
to the Vietnamese desire for autonomy, French actions on the scene have 
been directed toward whittling down the powers and the territorial extent 
of the Vietnam "free state." This process the Vietnamese have continued to 
resist. At the same time, the French themselves admit that they lack the 
military strength to reconquer the country. In brief, with inadequate forces, 
with public opinion sharply at odds, with a government rendered largely in- 
effective through internal division, the French have tried to accomplish in 
Indochina what a strong and united Britain has found it unwise to attempt in 
Burma. Given the present elements in the situation, guerrilla warfare may 
continue indefinitely (Gravel ed., 1:29). 

Washington actively supported the Bao Dai solution, although it was surely 
familiar with the following remark of the Chief of Staff of the French Army on 
his return from an observation tour in 1949: 

If Ho Chi Minh has been able to hold off French intervention for so long, it 
is because the Viet Minh leader has surrounded himself with a group of men 
of incontestable worth. . . . [Bao Dai, by contrast, had] a government 
composed of twenty representatives of phantom parties, the best organized 
of which would have difficulty in rallying twenty-five adherents . . . 
(Gravel ed., 1:59). 

The conflict in Vietnam which began as a struggle for independence against a 
colonial power waged by a coalition of several political groups, the Viet Minh, in 
which the Communists played a leading role, now had added to it a new and 
disastrous dimension in 1950: that of a civil war. That the United States created 
the conditions for a civil war is obvious. The French were primarily interested in 
defeating the Viet Minh forces and repossessing their former colony. At the in- 
stigation of the United States, they adopted a secondary political ploy: the setting 
up of an anticommunist "national" government in Saigon, whence have derived 
all the "Saigon" governments since. Without the support of France and the United 
States, the Bao Dai government would never have come into being, and the anti- 
colonial war would have been waged and won, whereas today, the war of inde- 
pendence and a civil war rage on, side by side. 

After 1950, and particularly after the onset of the Eisenhower administration 
in 1952, Vietnam assumed the importance of a test-case for the United States. 
The events in Vietnam were perceived to be intimately, and inextricably, linked 
to events in other Southeast Asian countries. The outbreak of the Korean war 
and the signing of the peace treaty with Japan in 1951, stimulated the United 
States to secure all countries from Burma to Japan for the "free world." In con- 
crete terms, keeping Southeast Asia "free" meant the following: demonstrating to 

A Vietnamese Viewpoint 37 

capitalist and other noncommunist countries the resolve of the United States 
to withstand Communist expansion; assuring a Southeast Asian market for 
the Japanese economy which would otherwise lean too heavily on American aid; 
removing the need for a Japanese accommodation with the Soviet bloc; securing 
access to the world's richest sources of natural rubber and tin, and perhaps sec- 
ond-richest source of petroleum; securing access to direct and well-developed air 
and sea routes between the western Pacific and India and the Near East; gaining 
control of military bases and other facilities on mainland Southeast Asia which 
would lessen the need for less desirable insular installations. All these considera- 
tions are set forth in a National Security Council staff study dated February 13, 
1952 (Gravel ed., 1:375-376). Given the importance of Southeast Asia and given 
the fact that Indochina has long been considered "a key area of Southeast Asia 
. . . under immediate threat" (Gravel ed., 1:373), the United States decided 
that, in the case that the Vietnamese [the Saigon government] should be weary of 
the war, and the French should accept to negotiate an end to it, the United States 
should still "continue to oppose any negotiated settlement with the Viet Minh," 
because "any settlement based on a withdrawal of French forces would be tanta- 
mount to handing over Indochina to communism" (Gravel ed., 1:379). 

A year later, actual entry into the war by the United States was anticipated: 
"If the French actually decided to withdraw, the United States would have to 
consider most seriously whether to take over in this area." So advocated a re- 
port by the State Department, in August of 1953, at a time when the United 
States raised its aid to the Paris and Saigon forces from $1,700,000 in that year 
to $2,160,000 in 1954, or from 33 percent to 61 percent of the total war cost 
(Gravel ed., 1:407-408). 

In 1954, while the Viet Minh besieged the French at Dien Bien Phu, the Na- 
tional Security Council debated the advisability of salvaging the French military 
fiasco by dispatching into Vietnam U.S. naval, air and ground forces (Gravel ed., 
1:465-472). The use of nuclear weapons was suggested quite matter-of-factly: 
"the estimated forces initially to be supplied by the U.S. ... are based on the 
assumption of availability [of nuclear weapons]. If such weapons are not avail- 
able, the force requirements may have to be modified" (Gravel ed., 1:466-467). 
While the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons were carefully studied, 
that is, the repercussions of their use on U.S. allies, on nonaligned couptries, and 
on the Soviet bloc, not a word is to be found concerning what they would do to 
the Vietnamese people or country. 

Even after Prime Minister Eden had shown him a map of Indochina which, 
according to Dulles, indicated that "virtually all of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia 
is under or subject to imminent control by the Viet Minh," the Secretary of State 
concluded that "it would be a tragedy not to take action which would prevent 
Indochina from being written off." 

From all the documents available on the U.S. role in the Geneva talks from 
May 8 to July 21, 1954, it appears that the United States attended the negotia- 
tions with the clear intention of persuading the French to continue the fighting 
and to seek a military victory. French proposals for a Vietnamese coalition gov- 
ernment were strongly discouraged, for such a government "would open the way 
for the ultimate seizure of control by the Communists under conditions which 
might preclude timely and effective external assistance in the prevention of such 
seizure," the "timely and effective external assistance" to come from the United 
States, clearly. Neither was any territory to be ceded to the Viet Minh, because 
that "would constitute a retrogressive step in the Containment Policy and would 
invite similar Communist tactics against other countries of Southeast Asia." Set- 

38 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

dements based on self-determination through free elections were not to be given 
a thought for that "would be attended by almost certain loss of the Associated 
States [Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos] to Communist control" (Gravel ed., 1:449). 

But the map that Eden showed to Dulles spoke louder to a weakened France 
than all of Dulles' exhortations, so that the American Secretary of State soon had 
to renounce too much of his desiderata. 

On June 14, 1954, Dulles cabled his ambassador in Paris informing him that 
plans for a U.S. intervention in Indochina were now virtually abandoned. "This," 
wrote Dulles, "is the inevitable result of the steady deterioration in Indochina 
which makes the problem of intervention and pacification more and more diffi- 
cult" (Gravel ed., 1:524). Soon after this, the question of the partition of Viet- 
nam was broached. Dulles' immediate reaction to this was: "There can ... be 
no repeat no question of U.S. participation in any attempt to QUOTE sell UN- 
QUOTE a partition to non-Communist Vietnamese" (17 June 1954, Gravel ed., 
1:531). The following day, Dulles sent another cable to Geneva saying that the 
United States was willing to "reexamine possible de facto partition Vietnam" 
(Gravel ed., 1:532). The reason for this about-face was that the proposed de- 
marcation line seemed advantageous to the French, and that, in any event, the 
French military situation in the Tonkin delta had rapidly deteriorated and become 

The Geneva Accords were signed on July 21, 1954. The war between the 
French and the Viet Minh officially ended. Vietnam was temporarily divided into 
two regions. At that very moment, the United States prepared to pick up the 
pieces the French were leaving. Already, by June 1, 1954, Colonel Lansdale had 
arrived in Saigon to direct the Saigon Military Mission, the aims of which were to 
"undertake paramilitary operations against the enemy and to wage political-psy- 
chological warfare. Later, after Geneva, the mission was modified to prepare the 
means for undertaking paramilitary operations in Communist areas rather than 
to wage unconventional warfare (Gravel ed., 1:574). 

The interests of the Vietnamese people dictated that the country be united un- 
der a single government of independence. But it was against the interests of the 
United States, as Washington conceived of them, to have that government be Ho 
Chi Minh's. The United States, therefore, undertook to lend total support to the 
regime of Ngo Dinh Diem, who became Prime Minister of the Bao Dai govern- 
ment in 1954 and who eventually replaced Bao Dai as Chief of State in 1955, in 
hopes of seeing it develop into a viable alternative to the Democratic Republic of 
Vietnam. It would be wrong to think that the United States opposed the concept 
of reunification. It had taken, at the Geneva Conference, the pledge to "continue 
to seek to achieve unity" for the divided countries, but how the National Security 
Council conceived of reunification is another matter. In 1956, after the deadline 
for the reunification elections had passed, the National Security Council directed 
all U.S. agencies in Vietnam to: 

Assist Free Vietnam to develop a strong, stable, and constitutional govern- 
ment to enable Free Vietnam to assert an increasingly attractive contrast to 
conditions in the present Communist zone . . . [and] work toward the 
weakening of the Communists in North and South Vietnam in order to bring 
about the eventual peaceful reunification of a free and independent Vietnam 
under anti-Communist leadership (Gravel ed., 1:267). 

In the meantime, then, southern Vietnam had to be made workable, appealing, 
and U.S. money poured into Saigon to do precisely that. How much of the largess 

A Vietnamese Viewpoint 39 

benefited the Vietnamese living in southern Vietnam? The purpose of the aid was 
not to lift the standard of life of the Vietnamese: 

Security was the focus of U.S. aid; more than 75% of the economic aid the 
U.S. provided in the same period went into the GVN [Government of Viet- 
nam-Saigon] military budget; thus at least $8 out of every $10 of aid went 
directly toward security. In addition, other amounts of nominally economic 
aid (e.g., that for public administration) went toward security forces, and 
aid for agriculture and transportation principally funded projects with stra- 
tegic purposes and with an explicit military rationale. For example, a 20- 
mile stretch of highway from Saigon to Bien Hoa, built at Gen. Williams' in- 
stance for specifically military purposes, received more U.S. economic aid 
than all funds provided for labor, community development, social welfare, 
health, and education in the years 1954-1961 (Gravel ed., 1:268). 

Being a nation of peasants, the Vietnamese desperately needed an agrarian re- 
form to abolish the inequalities spawned under colonialism: after six years of 
study, research, and various programs, the situation, as of 1960, remained as fol- 
lows: "45% of the land remained concentrated in the hands of 2% of landown- 
ers, and 15% of the landlords owned 75% of all the land" (Gravel ed., 1:254). 

Not only did the Ngo Dinh Diem regime make no attempt to eradicate social 
injustices, it prevented its citizens from attempting to redress these wrongs in the 
political arena. The government tolerated no opposition of any kind and political 
life was at a virtual standstill. Prisons overflowed with political prisoners. "In 
brief, Diem's policies virtually assured that political challenges to him would have 
to be extra-legal" (Gravel ed., 1:257). 

Some U.S. policymakers were naturally uneasy at the blatantly dictatorial ways 
of their proteges in Saigon, but even with the advent of a new U.S. administra- 
tion in 1961, they hesitated to revise U.S. policy toward the Ngo Dinh Diem gov- 
ernment, simply because "South Vietnam (unlike any of the other countries in 
Southeast Asia), was the creation of the United States" (Gravel ed., 11:22). 

Most of the Vietnamese who cared to know, had known that since 1954. And 
those who cared to fight, or saw no alternative but to fight, quietly picked up their 
arms again and resumed the old anti-colonialist struggle which had merely sub- 

Studies of peasant attitudes conducted in recent years have demonstrated 
that for many, the struggle which began in 1945 against colonialism continued 
uninterrupted throughout Diem's regime: in 1954 the foes of nationalists 
were transformed from France and Bao Dai, to Diem and the U.S. ... but 
the issues at stake never changed (Gravel ed., 1:295). 

Subsequent to 1960, all U.S. interventions in the Vietnamese situation devel- 
oped logically out of the premise that South Vietnam was to be kept within the 
boundaries of the "free world," regardless of how that affected the Vietnamese 

After 1960, events in South Vietnam were but the reenactment of events fifteen 
years earlier. There was a change of actors, but not of plots. The Viet Minh were 
replaced by the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, the French by the 
Americans, and the Bao Dai government by subsequent Saigon governments. In 
the eyes of the Americans, just as the Viet Minh had to be controlled by Moscow, 
although no evidence for it could be found, so now the National Liberation Front 

40 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

of South Vietnam had to have been directed by North Vietnam, although ample 
proof could be found for localized, southern grievances and organized opposition. 
The real difference, though, is that whereas France was not able to bomb Moscow, 
the United States has been absolutely free to all but devastate North Vietnam. 
What saved North Vietnam from total destruction, and the North Vietnamese 
people from annihilation, is the risk the United States of America always faces of 
bringing China and the Soviet Union into an enlarged war. American planes did 
not bomb the oil depots and power plants around Hanoi and Haiphong not for the 
sake of the Vietnamese people, but because that would "trigger Chinese interven- 
tion on the ground. . . . This is what we wish to avoid" (Gravel ed., IV: 31). 
But if other less risky ways could be found to arrive at the same results, they 
were to be considered: 

Strikes at population targets (per se) are likely not only to create a counter- 
productive wave of revulsion abroad and at home, but greatly to increase 
the risk of enlarging the war with China and the Soviet Union. Destruction 
of locks and dams, however — if handled right — might . . . offer promise. 
It should be studied. Such destruction does not kill or drown people. By 
shallow-flooding the rice, it leads after time to widespread starvation (more 
than a million?) unless food is provided — which we could offer to do "at the 
conference table" (Gravel ed., IV: 43). 

Southern Vietnam, however, was truly a free-fire zone, with China safely at a 
distance. And that is why the United States has been destroying its people out- 
right, in order to "save" them. 


4. The Media and the Message 
by James Aronson 

The people of this nation, in whose name and by whose ultimate con- 
sent all high government officials serve, have both the need and the 
right to be thoroughly informed on decisions. 

Thomas Jefferson did not say that. Robert S. McNamara did, in the preface 
to a collection of his speeches delivered during his tenure as Secretary of Defense 
under President Kennedy and President Johnson, and published in 1968 after 
he had left the Johnson administration to become director of the World Bank. 

In 1971, Arthur Krock, the former Washington Correspondent of the New 
York Times, titled his most recent book The Consent of the Governed, and Other 
Deceits. It is possible that Krock had read McNamara's collected speeches — an 
assignment of unusually cruel punishment — but he hardly needed to do so in ar- 
riving at his title: at age eighty-five, he had known twelve American presidents 
and countless cabinet officials. 

A less cynical man who has known fewer presidents but more people (as dis- 
tinguished from government officials) phrased it less elegantly but more pun- 
gently just before publication of the Pentagon Papers by the New York Times 
had been aborted by federal court order. He was Jimmy Breslin, reporter and stu- 
dent of politics-in-the-raw, in the unaccustomed role of Class Day orator at 
Harvard College on June 16, 1971. 

"I was just thinking on the way up here," said Breslin, "that the Berrigans are 
in jail and the Bundys are in the street." Since the brothers Bundy, McGeorge 
and William P., were so closely identified with Harvard and the Kennedy-John- 
son administrations, that comment in Harvard Yard had a piercing point. Breslin 

This week we all found out that [soldiers have] died to keep alive the lies 
of some people who thought they were important. This is a very great in- 
stitution here. But with these sustained reprisals hanging in the air, I just 
think that you might think you have something to overcome, coming out of 
here too. 

There are many Americans with something to overcome — and to learn — in the 
aftermath of the Pentagon Papers, not only in the universities and the federal 
government, but also in the communications establishment with which this chapter 
is concerned. Few events in recent years have been so revealing of the inner rela- 
tions between the government and the communications industry. Nothing has 
borne so directly on the public's right to know, a concept which for more than 
twenty-five Cold War years has been far more violated than honored. Few de- 
Copyright © 1972 by James Aronson. 

42 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

velopments have cast a colder light on the credibility of the highest elected and 
appointed officials and, in reflection and by omission, on the communications in- 
dustry itself. 

For the owners and operators of the newspapers, the managers of the radio- 
television networks, and the men and women who work in the news industry, the 
summer of 1971 was a crisis point. Since November 1969, Vice President Agnew 
had been blanketing the lecture circuit with his alliterative assaults on press and 
television news commentators; the Justice Department had been seeking through 
grand jury subpoenas to intimidate reporters by forcing disclosure of their news 
sources; the White House news coordinator, Herbert Klein, had been attempting 
to circumvent a not entirely compliant Washington press corps to deal directly 
with flattered news executives throughout the country; the President himself 
through a series of selective briefings had been anointing his favorite newspapers 
and columnists, and marking others for outer darkness, or at least for a purga- 
torial interim. 

This was the atmosphere in which the Pentagon Papers were published, first by 
the New York Times on June 13, 1971, then in relay by the Washington Post, 
the Boston Globe, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and several other newspapers. The 
times and events would seem to have called for the most searching kind of self- 
examination, not only of the factors behind the publication of the Pentagon Pa- 
pers, but of the whole question of government-media relations, and the respon- 
sibility of the communications industry to the public. The immediate core issue 
derived from the Nixon administration's concerted attack on the media; in a 
larger context, it was related to the origins of the Cold War at the close of World 
War II and the role of the communications industry in relation to Cold War pol- 
icymaking in Washington. In this context, an examination of the communications 
media during — and before — the time span of the Pentagon Papers is in order. 

A key question in the examination is this: How much of the information con- 
tained in the Pentagon documents was available to the media and, if much of it 
was, why was it not made public? 

The opportunity rarely arises from a left viewpoint to quote with approval a 
comment by Joseph Alsop. However, on June 23, 1971, Alsop wrote: 

The orgy of public hypocrisy, touched off by the . . . Pentagon docu- 
ments, is something that has to be seen to be believed. ... In reality, any 
senator who did his homework and any reasonably realistic and hardwork- 
ing reporter could easily discover what was actually going on, in the period 
covered by the Times quotations. 

However accurate this appraisal, there remains the question of what the hard- 
working reporters (presumably including Alsop) did with their discoveries, if 
and when they made them. Nonetheless, there was confirmation of Alsop's view 
from another correspondent who has generally expressed approval of the United 
States intervention in Southeast Asia. On June 17, 1971, Keyes Beech, a veteran 
of the Indochina theater, wrote in the Chicago Daily News: 

The New York Times report . . . held few surprises for the correspond- 
ents who have covered this war from the start. In general, the Pentagon ac- 
count confirms what some of us knew, half-knew, or suspected without be- 
ing able to document. Some of us had and wrote the story piecemeal. While 

The Media and the Message 43 

we could see what was happening here, we could not know what was hap- 
pening in Washington. 

What was happening in Washington, as far as the news corps was concerned, 
was recorded in the Columbia Journalism Review (Winter 1970-1971) by Jules 
Witcover, an astute Washington correspondent of the Los Angeles Times. Months 
before the Pentagon documents were made public, Witcover wrote in his article 
titled "Where Washington Reporting Failed" : 

While the press corps in those years diligently reported what the govern- 
ment said about Vietnam, and questioned the inconsistencies as they arose, 
too few sought out opposing viewpoints and expertise until too late, when 
events and the prominence of the Vietnam dissent could no longer be ig- 
nored. In coverage of the war, the press corps' job narrowed down to three 
basic tasks — reporting what the government said, finding out whether it was 
true, and assessing whether the policy enunciated worked. The group did a 
highly professional job on the first task. But it fell down on the second and 
third, and there is strong evidence the reason is too many reporters sought 
the answers in all three categories from the same basic source — the govern- 

There was a fourth task not cited by Witcover which may be the most perti- 
nent of all. Beyond the question of whether the policy worked, the basic question, 
unasked, was whether it was wise, whether it was in the public interest? The rea- 
son for the correspondents' confining approach, Witcover ruefully conceded later, 
and Keyes Beech confirmed in his book Not Without the Americans (Doubleday, 
1971), was that the news corps, both in Indochina and in Washington, was still 
enthralled by the Cold War and its central philosophy — the theory of the interna- 
national Communist conspiracy. 

The pervasiveness of this philosophy, even in the earliest stages of the Indo- 
china question, within the media, was delineated by Susan Welch of the political 
science faculty of the University of Nebraska in a thorough survey of four major 
American newspapers from 1950 to 1956.^ The newspapers were the New York 
Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and Chicago Tribune. Some 
of Miss Welch's conclusions: 

It was in the 1950s, not the 1960s, that this distant and undeclared war 
became established in the minds of both the public and public officials as a 
showdown between the forces of Communism and anti-Communism, vital to 
the "free world"; that Ho Chi Minh was identified as a tool of a larger Com- 
munist movement, and that victory in Indochina was seen as vital to the pres- 
ervation of all Asia and beyond. What the press did to help establish these 
views is important. . . . The press echoed the administration in its definition 
of the Indochinese situation. In only one instance was the basic assumption 
underlying United States policy questioned. The terms of the debate hard- 
ened at a very early stage in policymaking, and remained constant through- 
out. The assumptions of the administration were reiterated and emphasized 
in news stories and editorials alike. 

Much of the information gathered by the press , . . was administration 
sponsored, directly or indirectly. . . . Support for the position of the ad- 
ministration (both before and after the Republican takeover) as expressed 

44 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/ Vol. V 

in editorials was high for all but the Chicago Tribune. . . . [It] was re- 
flected by the rhetoric with which the Indochina war [between the Vietminh 
and the French] was discussed. News stories also reinforced the preconcep- 
tions of the administration largely because most of the stories dealt with 
quotes and comments of those involved in the decision making. 

The conservative Chicago Tribune alone questioned the basic assumptions of 
administration policy, largely because of the Tribune's isolationist position. Fight- 
ing Communists at home was a worthy pursuit, it felt, but sending American 
men and money abroad, particularly to bail out the colonial French, was patently 
absurd. But the liberal press — the Times, the Post, and the Chronicle — reacted 
with "pre-established programs of action — helping to defend a free — or almost 
free — people against Communist aggression." From 55 to 85 percent of the "hard 
news" items about Indochina were of this variety. When the news source was in- 
dependent of the administration, and indicated that neither French nor American 
policy was working, the indications were discounted in the news rooms and the 
editorial sanctums. The timidity of the press as to the "ideological implications" 
involved in Indochina was presented dispassionately and clearly by Miss Welch: 

There might have been a certain degree of risk in proclaiming too loudly 
Ho Chi Minh's nationalistic appeal without immediate disclaimers of his 
status as a puppet of Moscow, or Peking. The period 1950-1956 involved an 
internal climate not designed to encourage those who did not see Com- 
munism in this prescribed pattern. The whole early Cold War era also tended 
to mold feelings about Communism into black and white patterns, with little 
place in the accepted pattern for unusual combinations of nationalism and 
Communism. The Korean struggle only reinforced already held preconcep- 
tions about the aggressive and Moscow-Peking directed nature of Com- 

The excesses of the McCarthy period subsided in the decade that followed, 
but the institutionalized Cold War philosophy maintained the molded feelings to 
keep public opposition to governmental policy at a minimum. The media went 
along. In his Columbia Journalism Review article cited earlier, Jules Witcover 
raised a significant point anticipating the furor over the Pentagon documents 
and the reasons for it. He said: "One can speculate how the course of the war 
might have been affected had more members of the Washington news community 
relied less on their government and more on its responsible critics in appraising 
the veracity and effectiveness of government policy." 

In June 1971, public reaction to the publication of the documents was based 
not so much on an understanding of the issues involved in the American presence 
in Indochina, as on a realization that the public had been lied to for years. The 
reaction could not be based on an understanding of the issues because the issues 
had rarely been presented in a manner that would enable the public to form 
opinions or reach judgments about the events that shaped the issues. Therefore, 
in the news stories and editorials about the documents, far more stress was placed 
on the circumstances involved in obtaining and publishing the documents, and 
on freedom of the press, than on the contents of the documents. The core issue 
thus was never fully discussed. 

There was a defensive echo of Witcover's comment in a retrospective editorial 
in the New York Times, appropriately on July 4, 1971. It said: 

The Media and the Message 45 

Even if these secret decisions, now being revealed in the Pentagon Pa- 
pers, had been generally understood by the public at the time, we are not 
at all sure that in the climate of those days, the results would have been any 
different. Given the fear of Communist penetration and aggression though- 
out the '50s and most of the '60s, it is quite likely that the American public 
would have supported the basic rationale of escalation even if the respective 
administrations had been as forthcoming as democratic procedures de- 

The Times may be sound in this conclusion, but the uneasy question implied is 
neither asked nor answered directly. Did not the vast majority of the United 
States media — including the New York Times — advance the myth of the inter- 
national Communist conspiracy and help engender the atmosphere of fear? They 
did not dispute Joe McCarthy's ends — only his methods. They worried far more 
about damage to American prestige abroad — that is, the credibility of American 
policy — than damage to Americans and American principles of freedom at home. 
They did not report on the open and systematic violations by the United States 
of the Geneva agreements of 1954 (though they did publish the government's 
denials), or the reasons for the rise of the National Liberation Front of South 
Vietnam. Nor did they demand withdrawal of American support for a brutal and 
corrupt administration in Saigon — until the situation became so untenable that 
even the administration was forced to take action. The case history of the media 
and Ngo Dinh Diem, whose life and death figure so prominently in the Pentagon 
documents, is instructive. 

For the American public, the myth of Ngo Dinh Diem seems to have been 
fashioned in equal measure by Cardinal Spellman, Michigan State University 
(acting on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency), and a group of publicists 
led by Joseph H. Buttinger, an Austrian anti-Communist who had won the favor 
of Colonel Edward M. Lansdale, the CIA chief in Vietnam in the 1950s. Thus, 
when Diem came to the United States in 1957, as the President of the Republic 
of South Vietnam, the communications media were prepared to do somersaults 
for him on the welcoming red carpet — and did. 

The ISIew York Times declared that "by establishing democratic forms. Presi- 
dent Diem had carved a deep niche in official esteem in Washington." A New 
York City banquet was presided over by Henry Luce of Time, and Life ap- 
plauded his "great accomplishment" in abrogating the 1956 elections, ordered 
under the Geneva agreements, to decide the future of Vietnam. The Reporter 
magazine and the New Leader (which had provided two of its editors for the 
executive committee of the American Friends of Vietnam, along with Max Lerner 
and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.) were effusive in their praise. In 1960, he was still 
"doughty little Diem" to Time, and Newsweek'^ Ernest K. Lindley described 
him as "one of Asia's ablest leaders." 

Thus it went through the period of blatant repression by Diem of all political 
opposition and the consequent rise of the National Liberation Front of South 
Vietnam. These developments went almost entirely unreported in the American 
press, except for a few left-wing weeklies. Wilfred Burchett, as a correspondent 
of the National Guardian and a contributor to newspapers abroad, set up a home 
base in Cambodia and traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia. He was a 
frequent visitor to North Vietnam (long before any other Western correspondents 
were there) and was permitted into areas of South Vietnam controlled by the 

46 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

Liberation Front. His cabled and airmailed dispatches appeared regularly in the 
National Guardian, whose editors regularly had extra proofs run off and hand- 
delivered to the daily newspapers in New York and the wire services. They were 

Occasionally a Burchett report which had been published in the Asahi Shimbun 
of Tokyo (circulation 5 million) was relayed back to the United States, where 
it appeared in abbreviated fashion in a few newspapers. Later, when the war was 
admittedly going badly for the United States forces, and when it became apparent 
that Burchett had access to authoritative information in both North and South 
Vietnam, the Associated Press requested articles from him which appeared with 
an italic precede describing him as a "Communist journalist," and warning that 
his dispatches should be read with that in mind. Burchett protested to the Asso- 
ciated Press and the description was modified to "a journalist close to Communist 
leaders." In the United States press, the description did not disappear until the 
late 1960s. Yet while Burchett escaped from his precede, the American public 
was still a prisoner of the prejudices of newspaper editors and publishers. 

By 1962 it was clear to the New York Times, at least, that something was 
going terribly wrong in Vietnam, and it sent one of its ablest reporters. Homer 
Bigart, to Vietnam (it was he who coined the slogan "Sink or Swim With Ngo 
Dinh Diem"). Bigart became involved in what became known as the "second 
war" in Vietnam — the war of the correspondents against the combined United 
States-Vietnamese authority in Saigon. In fact, it was not a war at all, but a 
serious conflict between some correspondents^ and almost all official functionaries 
as to how to carry out American policy most efficiently — in brief, how to win the 
war in the shortest possible time. This is not to deny that there were first-rate 
examples of honest and courageous reporting both in the field and in Saigon. 
But what was so painfully apparent was the contradiction between the reporting 
of the best of the correspondents and the conclusions they drew from their own 
reportage, both about United States policy and the aspirations of the Vietnamese 

By insisting on presenting to the American public the facts about the Diem 
government, the "Young Turks" in Vietnam (as they were called) hastened a 
review of Washington's tactics, but not its policy. That policy for Indochina has 
remained unaltered from President Kennedy's decision in 1961 to corrimit forces 
in depth to Vietnam until this day. The group of remarkably able and dedicated 
newspapermen assigned to Saigon in the years 1962-1963 strove mightily to make 
the American public aware that the "Miracle of Dierh" was a costly myth, and 
that a change was needed. Their goal, however, was not an end to United States 
intervention, but reform of that intervention to attain an American victory. 

This was reflected in the writings of Halberstam, Browne, and Sheehan after 
their tours of duty in Vietnam. In 1967, Browne had moved from acceptance of 
the "credible" American presence in Vietnam (expressed in 1966) to an an- 
guished conclusion that "Asia and America seem doomed to play out the tragic 
drama to the end." ^ In 1965, David Halberstam said the United States could not 
agree to a neutral Vietnam which would create a "vacuum" for Communist "sub- 
version." Withdrawal would encourage the "enemies" of the West to attempt 
"insurgencies like the ones in Vietnam" throughout the world. ^ In 1966, Sheehan 
conceded that "the military junta in Vietnam would not last a week without 
American bayonets to protect it." But, he said, there was no alternative to the 
American strategy to "continue to prosecute the war," and to develop a "killing 
machine" to be turned on the enemy "in the hope that over the years enough 

The Media and the Message 41 

killing will be done to force the enemy's collapse through exhaustion and de- 
spair." ^ 

There is no doubt that Sheehan and Browne (both now on the staff of the 
New York Times, as is Charles Mohr) have come a far way from their despairing 
and limited views of the middle 1960s. So has Halberstam, and it was ironic in 
its way that Sheehan became so intimately involved in the publication of the 
Pentagon documents, and that he and Halberstam were called to appear before 
a federal grand jury in Boston in the fishing expedition following the disclosure 
by Dr. Daniel Ellsberg that he had given the documents to the New York Times. 
Perhaps purposeful would be a better description than ironic, for the vindictive 
arm of government is long, and the malice of government officials seeking to 
cover their tracks (as so many of the civilian strategists of Vietnam policy have 
been seeking to do) is pervasive. Sheehan and Halberstam, after all, committed 
the cardinal sin: they refused as reporters to "get on the team," and that, at any 
stage of governmental operations, is an unforgivable act. 

Perhaps a clue to the limitations of even the best of the reporters in Vietnam 
in the 1960s — in addition to their lack of historical perspective and knowledge 
of the area they were covering — may be found in an examination of journalism's 
unwritten and adjustable rules of objectivity. According to these rules, the only 
reliable sources of information about Indochina were untainted "free world" 
centers, and most central of all was the government of the United States. Sources 
of information outside the government were suspect, and radical sources almost 
entirely rejected. The most distinguished Asian scholars had not quite recovered 
their acceptability lost during the McCarthy years*^ and, besides, they almost 
universally disapproved of the American intervention. Why go to them for back- 
ground when abstracts of State Department white papers abounded? 

Correspondents of left-wing American journals and respected European cor- 
respondents like Jean Lacouture and the commentators of Le Monde were rarely 
quoted. The radicals, of course, wanted the Vietnamese to "win," and the French, 
once they were out, wanted the Americans to "lose," because France too had lost. 

When Harrison Salisbury of the New York Times, in a startling series of dis- 
patches from North Vietnam at the turn of 1967, discredited Washington's de- 
nials of bombings near Hanoi, and confirmed the Burchett reports that had been 
appearing regularly in the National Guardian, he was charged by Chalmers 
Roberts of the Washington Post with using a subversive typewriter in the service 
of Ho Chi Minh. The campaign of venom against him by his own colleagues was 
almost unprecedented (the Times itself, in its devotion to balance and ob- 
jectivity in the news, featured on page one an article by Hanson Baldwin, its 
military affairs analyst, taking sharp issue with the findings of Salisbury on the 
scene in North Vietnam). Salisbury was deprived of a Pulitzer Prize for his 
series when the Pulitzer board blatantly overruled the committee of editors who 
had selected Salisbury for the award. 

There was an echo of all this at the Paris talks on Vietnam in June 1971. 
Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, the representative of the Provisional Revolutionary 
Government of South Vietnam (which the New York Times still calls the Viet- 
cong), said that the Pentagon documents "confirm a truth that we have often 
expressed at this table, to wit, that the American administration . . . conceived 
plans for unleashing war and spreading it stage by stage." 

The North Vietnamese delegate at the same session produced a white paper — 
published on July 10, 1965, in English among other languages, and broadcast to 

48 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

the world over Radio Hanoi — entitled ""Twenty Years of American Aggression 
and Intervention in Vietnam." It was a document of remarkable accuracy, as 
the Pentagon Papers demonstrate. Included was a description of the infamous 
Plan No. 6, drawn up by Walt W. Rostow, then chairman of the State Depart- 
ment's Planning Council, calling for increasing commitments of United States 
ground forces and air power. 

In December 1965, Nguyen Huu Tho, chairman of the National Liberation 
Front, said in a statement (confirmed by the Pentagon documents) that the 
United States was operating under a "McNamara Plan" aimed at "pacifying the 
south within the two years of 1964-1965, and representing a new and greater 
effort to improve the critical situation of the puppet government and forces, and 
to concentrate their forces on pacifying the main areas under the Front's control." 
Such statements, said Erwin KnoU,"^ "received scant attention in the American 
media. They were merely 'Communist propaganda,' and our government, which 
knew better, hardly bothered to issue rebuttals." 

The July 1965 white paper was available to the American press immediately 
after it was published. It was the subject at the time of both a leading news 
article and an editorial in the National Guardian. No American newspaper of 
general circulation used it. But Vietnamese were not the only pariahs for the 
American media. Even certified non-Communist Americans foolhardy enough to 
be skeptical of or oppose administration policy or pronouncements were ignored 
or discredited. Consider the story of the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964. 

I. F. Stone in his weekly newsletter,^ almost alone among the Washington press 
corps, presented evidence immediately after the event indicating that the alleged 
attack by North Vietnamese gunboats against the United States fleet was a fraud. 
His reports were ignored by his colleagues who, years later, would review his 
books (based largely on his earlier published material) and honor him as the 
conscience of the Washington press corps. But the post-mortem flattery smacked 
of confession-booth relief and even caste condescension. This tenacious little bull- 
dog, as they like to call him, was eminently qualified to be the mascot of the 
White House Correspondents Association, but never a member. Not that Stone 
had ever wanted in. 

On August 5, 1964, Secretary McNamara held a news conference — maps, 
pointers, and field-grade flunkies at his elbow — to explain in his computerized 
fashion what had happened in the Gulf of Tonkin. There was not one probing 
question from the reporters, although it might have seemed inconceivable to at 
least some of them that two little North Vietnamese gunboats would seek out and 
attack the mighty American fleet, knowing full well what the reprisal would be. 

The New York Times, after Tonkin, saw in the alleged attack "an ominous 
perspective . . . the beginning of a mad adventure by the North Vietnamese 
Communists." The mad adventures, however, were on the other side — a fact 
which became clear in the American escalation of the war immediately thereafter. 
And the calculated fraud was exposed further in statements by members of the 
crews of the United States vessels involved in the incident, long before the Pen- 
tagon Papers were published. 

Dissenting legislators (there were few enough of them then) fared little better 
than Stone. On August 10, 1964, Senator Ernest Gruening of Alaska who, with 
Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, five days earlier had cast the only dissenting 
votes against the Tonkin Gulf resolution, delivered the first speech on the Senate 
floor advocating withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. The speech was 
a reasoned and factual presentation of the circumstances of American involve- 
ment. The next morning Gruening sought out newspaper accounts of his speech. 

The Media and the Message 49 

There was not a line about it in either the New York Times or the Washington 
Post. Had he been able to repeat the exercise with most if not all other news- 
papers in the country that day, the search would have been equally futile. 

A significant indicator of the communication media's attitude during the 1950s 
and 1960s was provided in the New York Times editorial of July 4, 1971. "We 
do not think," it said, "that the respective officials involved made recommenda- 
tions or took decisions that they did not conscientiously believe to be in the 
public interest. As an early opponent of the escalation of American military force 
in Vietnam, this newspaper has never attacked the motives of those leaders. . . ." 

The key words here are escalation and motives. The Times did not oppose 
intervention in Indochina, as we have seen. On the contrary, it endorsed it with 
exhortation to victory ("Thomas Jefferson would have no quarrel" with /Ngo 
Dinh Diem's definition of democracy, it said as far back as 1957). The Times 
did begin to oppose escalation when it became apparent that there could be no 
military victory in Indochina. Similarly, it never questioned the motives of the 
succeeding administrations because it subscribed wholeheartedly to the policies 
being motivated. 

Speculation is a doubtful practice at best. But we should include the period 
before 1960, for which a reasonable speculation might be: If the communica- 
tions media had presented the history of Indochina and the aspirations of its 
peoples; if they had opened their facilities to the opponents of developing Cold 
War policy to encourage a public debate based on realities and not on myth — 
if they had done these things, would the government, confronted with an in- 
formed public, have dared to embark on a venture which has cost millions of 
Indochinese lives, thousands of American lives, incredible destruction of the life- 
giving land of Indochina, and incalculable damage to the spiritual fabric of Amer- 
ican life? 

This leads to a central question about the publication of the documents bear- 
ing directly upon the responsibility of the communications industry and the pub- 
lic's right to know. The revelations dealt with events that had occurred before 
1968. In response to the government's charge that publication was damaging to 
the security interests of the country, the Times responded editorially on June 16, 
the day after publication had been suspended: 

It is in the interest of the people of this country to be informed. ... A 
fundamental responsibility of the press in this democracy is to publish in- 
formation that helps the people of the United States to understand the proc- 
esses of their own government, especially when these processes have been 
clouded over in a veil of public dissimulation and even deception. . . . Once 
this material fell into our hands, it was not only in the interest of the Amer- 
ican people to publish it but, even more emphatically, it would have been 
an abnegation of responsibility not to have published it. 

Obviously the Times would not have made this decision if there had been 
any reason to believe that publication would have endangered the life of a 
single American soldier or in any way threatened the security of our country 
or the peace of the world. The documents in question belong to history. . . . 
Their publication could not conceivably damage American security interests, 
much less the lives of Americans or Indochinese. 

Five days later, when the Washington Post began publication, the Times em- 
phasized again that the documents "in no way affect current plans, operations. 

50 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/ Vol. V 

or policy; and there seems no longer any justification for these papers ... to 
bear the kind of classification that keeps them from general public access." The 
next day, June 22, the Boston Globe began its publication of parts of the docu- 
ments not yet published. Its editorial likewise assured its readers that "the na- 
tion's security" was not involved in publication. 

The implication here was that neither the Times nor the Globe nor, perhaps, 
any other newspaper would publish classified material relating to current or future 
events, no matter how salutary to the national interest public knowledge of that 
material might be. The conclusion was that the Times, in any case, had not al- 
tered its policy in regard to such information since the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961. 

It will be recalled that in April 1961, Times correspondent Tad Szulc came 
into possession of information in Florida that a United States financed and sup- 
ported invasion of Cuba was imminent. The Times, at the request of the White 
House and largely on the advice of James Reston, then Washington bureau chief, 
withheld publication of key facts of the story on the ground that it was in the 
national interest to do so. 

Again, in October 1962, the New York Times and the Washington Post had 
firm knowledge during the so-called missile crisis of President Kennedy's plans 
for a military blockade of Cuba and for intercepting any foreign-flag ship at- 
tempting to reach the island republic. The newspapers withheld publication at 
the request of President Kennedy. The crisis was resolved by a Soviet agreement 
to remove missiles emplaced on Cuban territory in return for an American pledge 
that there would be no repetition of the 1961 invasion attempt. 

In the 1961 incident, United States involvement in the aborted invasion of a 
sovereign state was in clear violation of international law. In the 1962 incident, 
the Soviet Union was clearly within its rights in placing missiles in Cuba, at the 
invitation of the Cuban government and under Cuban control, however dis- 
tasteful it may have been to the government of the United States. The bristling 
reaction to the missiles (to this day there has been no precise description of their 
potential) was outrageous in view of the fact that hundreds of American missiles 
had been placed close to the borders of the Soviet Union. 

Beyond this, Drew Pearson reported on October 26, 1962, that the missile 
crisis had been engendered in Washington by the Kennedy administration to shore 
up its political prospects in the November 1962 elections against Republican 
charges that it was being soft on communism "ninety miles from our shores." 
And Max Frankel in the New York Times of October 23, 1962, indicated that 
one compelling reason for the need for secrecy about Washington's plans was 
fear that the Soviet Union might take the matter to the United Nations and un- 
dercut the effect of Kennedy's ultimatum — an ultimatum which could have led 
to war between the United States and the Soviet Union. As late as 1966 the Times 
was still justifying its suppression of the missile crisis story.^ 

There is a connection between the Cuban events and those of June 1971. The 
Boston Globe sent Crocker Snow, assistant managing editor, to New York dur- 
ing the first week of the publication of the documents to find out how and why 
the Times's decision to publish was reached, and how the staff felt about it. 
Snow determined that there was a "curious relationship" between the June 1971 
decision and the one taken years earlier at the time of the Bay of Pigs. He re- 
called Kennedy's hindsight comment to Times executive editor Turner Catledge: 
"If you had printed more about the [Bay of Pigs] operation, you would have 
saved us from a colossal mistake." 

Had this "embarrassing memory" played a part in the decision to publish the 
Pentagon documents? Snow asked. Very little, said the editors. One told Snow: 

The Media and the Message 51 

"This is a very, very different thing. These are basically historical documents, and 
the Cuban stories were about pending missions. I can say honestly that if this 
secret material now had been about ongoing missions, then we wouldn't have 
used it." This confirms the editorial comment in the Times quoted earlier. 

The mind conjures the image of an ashen editorial writer, sitting at a charred 
typewriter, painfully recording that, in retrospect, the decision to drop an atomic 
bomb on Peking, in retaliation for the defeat of the American Ping-Pong team 
by the Chinese at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, was poorly conceived. The 
Times, the editorial would say, had information that a contingency plan for 
the preemptive retaliatory protective reaction strike was in existence, but with- 
held the information because it concerned ongoing policy, and disclosure might 
endanger the life of even one American airman. 

While this fantasy may seem absurd to some, the reality was less absurd to 
thousands of Indochinese whose charred remains continued to pile up in a non- 
contingent pattern as a result of ongoing United States policy whose underlying 
principles were still accepted by an overwhelming majority of the communications 
media. Who then will blow the whistle on this policy in the genuine national 

The Pentagon Papers demonstrated that government not only refuses to give 
out information but also lies and distorts the facts. Is it not, therefore, the re- 
sponsibility of newspapers and television networks to make the record public 
when they are persuaded that a planned government action could bring the na- 
tion up to or over the brink of an illegal, immoral, and disastrous war? This is 
not to argue that the media in a wartime situation should have published in 
advance, say, the date of the invasion of Normandy in World War II. There are 
of course situations when security must be maintained. The publication by the 
Chicago Tribune in World War II of the information that the United States had 
broken the Japanese naval code was reprehensible. 

But Cuba is another matter. We were not at war with Cuba. We simply wanted 
to smash its revolution, and the media was in general accord with this policy. 
And Indochina is another matter. War has never been declared there, and a 
majority of Americans has finally concluded that the United States must extricate 
itself. If the government persists in thwarting the public will, do not the media 
have a responsibility to intervene in behalf of the public? If they do not, who 

"Who elected the New York Times to get into the game? some people ask," 
James Reston wrote on June 20, 1971, "and the answer is nobody but the men 
who wrote the First Amendment to the Constitution." A fair answer, and one 
Reston might have given to himself when he advised his publisher not to publish 
the facts about the Bay of Pigs invasion (Reston still refers to the CIA's Cubans 
as "freedom fighters") and the missile crisis. But the answer implies something 
more than responsibility in hindsight. 

"The political game as it is now played in Washington is like a football game 
without boundaries, rules, or officials," Reston declared in the same article. "All 
the men in the press box can do is report the shambles." Poorly stated. The men 
who drew up and fought for the First Amendment privileges and protections 
for the press did so precisely because they sought to prevent the shambles from 
occurring. In Reston's metaphor, they wanted the press to guard the stadium 
gates like watchdogs to prevent the crooked managers, the fixed players, and 
the blood-money gamblers from taking over. 

The Times was a toothless watchdog when Coach Eisenhower's Washington 
All-Stars were playing Russian Roulette in their U-2 spy planes over the Soviet 

52 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

Union in 1960, and before. Several Times editors later conceded that the Times 
knew all about this dangerous game, but published nothing about it. Premier 
Khrushchev made his famous U-2 accusation just before a scheduled summit con- 
ference with President Eisenhower in Paris in May 1960 — a conference called 
to advance the "spirit of Camp David" supposedly established during Khru- 
shchev's visit to the United States the year before. 

The sainted Eisenhower, the nearest miss to General Washington the nation 
has ever had, lied about the U-2s, and the Times soberly published his lies — even 
though it knew the facts. The press in general decreed that Khrushchev did not 
want to talk peace anyway. Then Khrushchev produced the photographs of the 
U-2 wreckage and mug shots of pilot Gary Powers. The Paris conference broke 
up before it had begun, an Eisenhower trip to the Soviet Union was canceled. 
The game was called on account of international darkness, and the nation slid 
back into Reston's Cold War shambles. That is the most dangerous game of all, 
and the Times was an accomplice before and after the fact because it did not 
genuinely subscribe to the public's right to know. 

In January 1972 an incident occurred which seemingly put to test the question 
whether the most prestigious newspapers of the country would alter their policy 
of not publishing government documents about ongoing or future policy. The 
episode acquired the name "the Anderson Papers," after Jack Anderson, the 
Washington-based muckraker whose column appears in 700 newspapers. In his 
column of January 3 Anderson wrote that he had come into possession of secret 
summaries of White House meetings of December 3, 4, and 6 disclosing a firmer 
anti-India attitude by the United States government than had been made public 
during and following the India-Pakistan dispute over East Pakistan. The creation 
of the state of Bangladesh had followed the Indian invasion of East Pakistan. 

Much of the information in the Anderson columns pictured White House 
adviser Henry M. Kissinger as the President's chief spokesman in the matter. 
Kissinger insisted that Anderson had "wrenched" the information "out of con- 
text." Anderson, to prove his contention, thereupon released the full text of 
memoranda of the White House meetings, and they were published on January 
5 by the Washington Post and the New York Post. The New York Times asked 
Anderson for the documents and published them in full on January 6. The 
Washington Post described Anderson's actions as "an undoubted contribution to 
the public's right to know." 

While the documents undoubtedly did shed light on the insular arrogance with 
which policy decisions are reached, they added litde to the public's knowledge of 
United States attitudes toward India and Pakistan — attitudes whose bias against 
India was clearly evident in United States actions and comments at the United 
Nations, and in statements by the White House and the State Department. Fur- 
ther, in any comparison with the Pentagon Papers, it should be noted that the 
documents were turned over to Anderson from within the government — and 
there is considerable reason to believe that the leak was motivated not so much 
by concern for the public's right to know, as by jealousy and dissension among 
warring factions within the administration. It was common knowledge in Wash- 
ington that both the State Department and the Defense Department had long 
resented Kissinger's "running the government from the White House basement," 
and the Anderson coup had all the earmarks of a palace intrigue to "get" 

While Anderson may be credited with nobler motives in making the informa- 
tion public, an examination of the administration's public statements on India 

The Media and the Message 53 

and the secret documents revealed differences only in degree and intensity. Com- 
parisons with the Pentagon documents fall noticeably short. Neither in content 
nor in significance do the two sets of documents compare. Furthermore, by the 
time the documents were published, Bangladesh was a fait accompli. In the last 
analysis, the Anderson papers did not test the willingness of the press to publish 
major documents about current or future policy. 

The leadership of the Times nationally was demonstrated by the chain reaction 
following its publication of the first of the Pentagon Papers. In rapid order, the 
documents began to appear in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Sun- 
Times, the Knight newspapers, Los Angeles Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 
Newsday of Long Island, and the Christian Science Monitor. Granted by then 
it was too sensational a story to suppress, there was much more involved. It 
was evident that those newspapers generally regarded as the most responsible 
understood they had a common and compelling necessity to support one another 
in the face of an unprecedented government attempt at "prior restraint" — that is, 
action taken to prevent the publication of a news story or transcripts of docu- 

This was the problem that confronted the editors (and the legal department, 
which sometimes overrules or supplants the editors) at the Times in the three 
months during which they had possession of the documents and weighed their 
decision to publish or not to publish. The atmosphere at the Times and in the 
surrounding mid-Manhattan area could have been appropriate for an elaborate 
spy melodrama. Men and women were spirited out of the Times building in 
West 43rd Street to set up secret headquarters at the Hotel Hilton, their privacy 
protected by Times company guards (eventually the Times had nine rooms on 
two floors of the hotel). Special secret composing rooms were established with 
only trusted typesetters admitted. Questions as to the whereabouts of missing 
Washington bureau men were met with "Don't ask." 

In Washington there were similar scenes at the Post, of briefer duration but 
perhaps of even greater intensity. There an all-night battle between the "business 
side" and the "editorial side" at the home of executive editor Benjamin Bradlee 
ended with a victory by the editorial side to publish. 

First reactions in the newspaper world were marked by indolence and in- 
eptitude and, in many areas, caution. The Times News Service, with 300 clients, 
alerted its subscribers on the afternoon of June 12 (Saturday) that it would 
move a major story at 6 p.m. The Louisville Courier-Journal gave prominent 
place to the story, but the Chicago Tribune ignored it. UPI did not send a story 
out until Sunday afternoon, and AP waited until Monday afternoon (both serv- 
ices are permitted to pick up stories from member newspapers immediately). 
Neither Time nor Newsweek remade their pages on Saturday night, although 
there was time. 

The television networks handled the story even more casually. ABC put the 
Times story aside to read at a future time. At CBS, during the "Face the Nation" 
program on Sunday with Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird (who had been 
briefed by Attorney General Mitchell as to his possible replies), neither the CBS 
correspondent nor the New York Times man on the program asked a single ques- 
tion concerning the documents. Only NBC realized the significance of the story 
and devoted almost half of the time of its Sunday evening news to it. 

In general, however, the performance of the television networks was limited 
in the weeks that followed. While they covered the legal battles and the Ellsberg 
involvement fully, they paid scant attention to the content of the documents, and 

54 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

it was not until the end of December 1971 that any network devoted any ap- 
preciable time to the papers themselves. That was the two-hour program "Viet- 
nam Hindsight," produced by NBC and devoted mainly to the origins of Amer- 
ican involvement and the events leading to the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem 
on November 2, 1963. 

But a high degree of excitement was engendered in the last two weeks of June, 
particularly about the question of freedom of the press and the interpretation of 
the First Amendment. And the excitement was warranted. Never before in the 
history of the country had the issue of "prior restraint" been raised in terms of 
legal action and pursued through the courts by the government — not even during 
the two-year period in which the Alien and Sedition acts were in force from 1798 
to 1800. Even these acts invoked postpublication penalties, and they expired 
before the Supreme Court was able to rule on the constitutional issues. 

A proper question to be asked at this juncture is this: If the Congress is for- 
bidden by the First Amendment from enacting legislation in the area of freedom 
of the press, by what right did the Executive branch intervene to ask the 
Judiciary to act, and by what right did the courts accede to the Executive's re- 
quests? There was a sharp exchange on this point during the Supreme Court 
hearing on June 26, 1971, between Justice Douglas, an unyielding advocate of 
absolute interpretation of First Amendment freedoms, and, surprisingly, the at- 
torney representing the Times, Alexander M. Bickel of Yale Law School. 

Bickel argued that the courts might have the power to restrain the press if 
Congress passed a law specifically authorizing it to do so. Justice Douglas looked 
up sharply from his note-taking and said: "The First Amendment says that Con- 
gress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press. Are you saying that 
Congress can make some laws abridging freedom of the press? [That] is a very 
strange argument for the Times to make that all this can be done if Congress 
passes a law." Bickel wisely made no response. 

It was indeed a strange argument on behalf of a newspaper petitioning to lift 
the judicial restraining order against continuing publication of the Pentagon doc- 
uments. It was even more strange in view of the position taken by four justices 
against accepting certiorari (review) on the ground that, because of the First 
Amendment's clear language, the court had no jurisdiction in the case. 

A head-on test of this principle might have occurred if the Times had ignored 
the initial injunction in the Federal District Court in New York and continued 
publication of the documents. But the Times, as a newspaper which abides by 
the "rule of law," was not willing to make the challenge; nor, it seems, was any 
other newspaper. However one might have hoped for such a challenge, it was 
not logical to expect it from newspapers which have consistently rebuked demon- 
strators for "going outside the law." 

There was another alternative for the Times: It could have published the entire 
set of documents in one issue and thus rendered moot the issue of prior restraint 
— at least in the Pentagon Papers case. But newspapers, however much they may 
protest that they are a public service, are profit-making enterprises. The Times's 
circulation had been declining at a fairly steady rate through 1971. Here was a 
chance to recoup some losses through a series of articles spread over a period of 
time with tremendous impact. It would hardly be speculative to suggest that hard 
heads in the countinghouse prevailed over softer ones in the editorial department. 

What was the long-range meaning of the Supreme Court's decision to permit 
the Times to continue publication? Perhaps the soundest answer came from one 
of the nation's leading authorities on constitutional law, Thomas I. Emerson of 
Yale Law School. He wrote: 

The Media and the Message 55 

The result was certainly favorable to a free press. Put the other way, a 
contrary result would have been a disaster. It would have made the press 
subject to a very considerable extent of advance restriction. It would have 
changed the whole relationship between the press and government. The out- 
come was a sound outcome. On the other hand, the legal theory that the 
court adopted is, I think, cause for concern. 

Only three justices came out strongly against a system of prior restraint — 
Black, Douglas and Brennan, and Brennan would make some narrow ex- 
ceptions. Black and Douglas apparently permitted none. Justice Marshall 
probably would go along with them, but actually he based his opinion on a 
different ground — that Congress had denied the power to the President, and 
the Court therefore did not get into the question. But if you assume there 
were four who would vigorously apply the doctrine of no previous re- 
straint, nevertheless there were five whose opinions seriously undermine 
the doctrine against prior restraint. Certainly the three dissenters would 
have made exceptions, but also Justices White and Stewart announced that 
any anticipated publication which raised an immediate danger to national 
security would be grounds for an injunction, and the dissenting justices 
would have gone at least that far. 

There were two major problems, as Emerson saw the decision: (1) The spe- 
cified exception — that advance restraint of a newspaper was proper if the gov- 
ernment proved a grave and immediate breach of national security — is a wide- 
open exception which would probably allow the government to obtain an injunc- 
tion in most cases where the question of national security was raised; (2) if the 
courts ultimately interpret the concept of "grave and immediate breach of na- 
tional security" rather narrowly, the very application of the rule would constitute 
a system of prior restraint because it would hold up publication while the courts 
investigated whether there was indeed a breach of security. 

Emerson found the media to be in a vulnerable position. The rapid changes in 
the Supreme Court, tilting the balance distinctly toward the restrictive Nixon- 
Mitchell view of civil liberties, made the position of the media even more vul- 
nerable. On this point, Emerson had some advice for the media in seeking allies 
to protect its freedom: 

I would say that one of the main things that the media can do is to 
educate the public to the significance of the whole system of free expres- 
sion. . . . The New York Times case has opened up the possibility of 
making people aware of what the role of the press is: that its role isn't 
simply to take handouts given by the government; it's for the people. 

The major problem with the system of freedom of the press today is the 
inability of many points of view to find an outlet. That is a very serious 
problem. I think that it is important for the media to be aware of that, to 
anticipate it, to try to take account of it. In other words, just as I think 
the government ought to subsidize an opposition to itself, in a sense monopo- 
listic elements in the communications industry should subsidize some op- 
position to themselves. I think it would be a much healthier and ultimately 
more successful system. 

It was unlikely that either the government or the communications industry 
would give serious heed to Emerson's Jeffersonian counsel. In the more than two 
years during which the Nixon administration had sought to pressure the com- 

56 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 

munications industry to cast off even its tepid adversary role vis-d-vis govern- 
ment, the industry to a large extent played the artful dodger, yielding a bit here, 
making a tentative thrust there, but generally avoiding a direct confrontation with 
the government. The publication of the Pentagon Papers altered the situation, 
but subsequent events have not demonstrated that the communications industry 
has absorbed the obvious lesson of the Pentagon Papers — that the only proper 
role of the media is not as partner to government, but as spokesman and forum 
for an enlightened and informed public opinion which it should help to create. 

In the first days after the documents were published, there was a heartening 
closing of ranks to resist the abrogation of the First Amendment — for that is 
what it had come down to. The directors of NBC and CBS, themselves under 
governmental siege, voiced their support of the newspapers. ABC, concentrating 
on a "happy news" approach in accord with the Agnew syndrome, was silent. 

The American Society of Newspaper Editors joined the fight, as did the As- 
sociated Press Managing Editors Association, the Newspaper Guild, and Editor 
& Publisher, the generally stodgy journal of the newspaper industry. The Boston 
Globe recalled the dark days of the witch-hunting, black-listing 1950s with a 
warning that it could happen again. Its political editor Robert Healy wrote: 
"After all, the issue is not simply the right [of newspapers] to publish these doc- 
uments, but the right of the people to read them." 

The classic arrogant response to this position was given by General Maxwell 
Taylor, who served in the deceit elite of both the Kennedy and Johnson adminis- 
trations, and therefore was a person of prominence in the Pentagon documents. 
On the question of "the people's right to know," he said: 

I don't believe in this as a general principle. You have to talk about 
cases. What is a citizen going to do after reading these documents that he 
wouldn't have done otherwise? A citizen should know the things he needs 
to know to be a good citizen and discharge his functions, but not to get into 
secrets that damage his government and indirectly damage himself. 

The disclosures, he said, were laying the foundations for "bad history." That 
meant, in plain English, that it would make the central figures in the drama — 
Taylor among them — look bad. And that, at all costs, particularly at the cost of 
truth, had to be avoided. Opposed to the Taylor view, Tom Wicker wrote in the 
New York Times on June 16, 1971: "No statute exists that says that government 
officials must be protected from the exposure of their follies or misdeeds. Indeed, 
the great lesson of the Pentagon record is that the ability to operate in secrecy 
breeds contempt for that very public in whose name and interest officials claim 
to act." 

That is a great lesson indeed, but it applies to the newspapers which refused to 
publish information in their possession during the years of the Pentagon Papers, 
as well as the government officials who sought to keep secret their policymaking 
actions. For the communications media it ought to have meant a continuing ef- 
fort to tear the shroud of secrecy and misinformation from every area of gov- 
ernmental policymaking, and particularly about the seemingly endless war in 
Indochina. But after a period of vigorous self-congratulation, the media lost in- 
terest altogether in the contents of the Pentagon documents, especially as to the 
light they might cast on current policy and actions, and resorted to their cus- 
tomary way of doing things. 

Body counts and kill ratios still dominated the news stories from Indochina, 

The Media and the Message 57 

and "Hanoi" was credited with all "enemy" military actions in Cambodia, Laos, 
and South Vietnam. Missing from the media — and from the American conscious- 
ness — was any recognition of the role of the National Liberation Front of South 
Vietnam, the Cambodian National Liberation Front, and the Pathet Lao, the 
liberation movement of Laos, each of which is in control of the major portion 
of its respective country, and each of which in fact is opposing the forces of the 
United States and their mercenary troops — not "Hanoi." 

When the bombings of North Vietnam were resumed in force late in 1971, 
and administration spokesmen, in language which could have been taken verbatim 
from the Pentagon documents, sought to justify the bombings, the media reported 
the explanations without contest in the traditionally objective fashion. An enter- 
prising newspaper could have laid the official statements side by side with similar 
statements from the Pentagon documents, and the point would have been sharply 
underscored. But such enterprise was not countenanced, if it ever was proposed. 

Even more striking was the treatment in the media, and particularly the New 
York Times, of the man whose initiative, enterprise, and single-minded purpose 
enabled the publication of the Pentagon documents. On August 5, 1971, Daniel 
EUsberg was ordered by a United States District judge in Boston to be removed 
to California to face charges of illegal possession of secret government documents. 
The Times, one felt, would regard itself as personally involved — with due regard 
for the need to protect its own legal position — and deem this news worthy of 
page one display. It decided, however, to place the story (ten inches of type) on 
page six of its August 6 issue. 

An Appeals Court held up the extradition order on August 6, and the Times 
on August 7 moved the story up to page four (thirteen inches). Ellsberg was not 
in court in Portland, Maine, where the action took place, but held a news con- 
ference in Boston, and made some statements which could provide a motive for 
his relegation to the Times'^ inside pages. He said he was disappointed that the 
newspapers were not printing more of the Pentagon documents. "The New York 
Times and the Washington Post have most of the papers," he said, "but the public 
doesn't have them. I have to say this means many newspapers in this country 
which have access to large sections of the Pentagon study are now in the business 
of withholding it from the public, just as the Defense Department was for so long 
in that business." 

That was a strong enough statement to elicit comment from the Times or the 
Washington Post, but none was forthcoming. In fact, Ellsberg dropped out of the 
Times for the rest of the week, and its News of the Week in Review, on Sunday, 
August 8, did not consider his situation of sufficient interest for an item in the 
review, let alone for editorial comment. 

Coverage of the Ellsberg case did improve in the Times after the second in- 
dictments by a grand jury in Los Angeles in December 1971, but an examination 
of the Times's editorials from June through December 1971 yielded only one 
comment about the Ellsberg case. That was an editorial critical of the govern- 
ment's use of wiretapping in pursuing persons in the academic community who 
may have sympathized with or assisted Ellsberg's efforts to make the Pentagon 
documents public. 

The Boston Globe was prematurely accurate in describing the climate sur- 
rounding the Pentagon Papers' publication as similar to that of the 1950s, "when 
intellectuals, Hollywood writers, professors and labor leaders were being sum- 
moned before a congressional committee and then being judged in contempt be- 
cause they refused to answer questions about their alleged Communist beliefs." 

58 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

Substitute the words "grand jury" for ""congressional committee," and "Ellsberg 
connections" for "Communist beliefs," and one has a fair picture of the atmos- 
phere on East Coast and West Coast at the turn of 1972. 

Even the most vigorous efforts — if they were indeed to be made — by the media 
to ensure a fair trial for Ellsberg and the others who were indicted, or may still 
be, could not absolve the media of their responsibility in the situation. That 
could be achieved only by an acknowledgment that the wrong persons were being 
placed on trial, and that the government's efforts were a diversion to delude the 
public once again as to the real nature of the American crisis. 

In the New York Times of June 13, 1971 — the day the first of the documents 
appeared — James Reston described as persons of "unquestioned personal moral 
character" Secretary of Defense McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Walt 
W. Rostow, and the Bundy brothers. It is a strange characterization for men en- 
gaged for years in the process of deliberately deceiving the American public in 
order to continue killing both Indochinese and Americans to prove the correct- 
ness of their policy. 

As of January 1972, all of these moral men were still active in public life. 
McNamara — with a second five-year term — was presiding over the billions in the 
World Bank; Rusk was teaching history to unsuspecting young people at a South- 
ern university; McGeorge Bundy was distributing Ford Foundation largess as 
chairman of the board; brother William had been confirmed (by David Rocke- 
feller) as editor of Foreign Affairs, a journal which seeks to present American 
foreign policy in its most benevolent light; Rostow was heavily engaged at the 
University of Texas (sometimes known as the University of Lyndon B. Johnson) 
in Austin, presenting to history as a benign democrat one of the grossest men 
ever to achieve the Presidency. 

All the high-minded editorials about the inviolability of the First Amendment 
and the "vitality of the American form of government" {New York Times edi- 
torial, July 4, 1971) notwithstanding, the communications industry will have ab- 
dicated its responsibility completely unless it seeks an answer to the compelling 
question: How could these things be? If the industry does not stand united in an 
adversary role to government — the only proper stance for a free press in a democ- 
racy — there will be ever greater incursions on its freedoms, and the freedoms of 
others. Ultimately, the public may be left without a major defense of its interests 
against predatory government. 

And a Berrigan will still be in jail. 


1. In a paper prepared for delivery at the 66th annual meeting of the American 
Political Science Association in Los Angeles in September 1970; and in an article in 
The Nation, October 11, 1971, part of an essay to be included in Communications in 
International Politics, edited by Richard I. Merritt (University of Illinois Press). 

2. At the height of the controversy about Diem, only the Associated Press, the United 
Press International, and the New York Times had full-time correspondents in South 
Vietnam. When a major story broke, a stream of correspondents poured in from Hong 
Kong, Tokyo, and Bangkok. Neil Sheehan was then correspondent for UPI, Malcolm 
Browne for AP, and Charles Mohr was Southeast Asia bureau chief for Time. With 
David Halberstam, who succeeded Homer Bigart for the New York Times, they com- 
prised the group of journalistic rebels whose dispatches were contradicted by junketeer- 
ing correspondents such as Joseph Alsop and Marguerite Higgins of the New York 

The Media and the Message 59 

Herald Tribune, sent out to Vietnam for that purpose. By July 1966, there were 360 
accredited correspondents in South Vietnam, about a third of them actual reporters, the 
rest technicians, interpreters, and CIA agents. 

3. In a perceptive review of Roger Hilsman's To Move a Nation (Doubleday, 1967), 
in The Nation, June 5, 1967. 

4. In The Making of a Quagmire (Random House, 1965). 

5. In an article entitled "Not a Dove, But No Longer a Hawk," in the New York 
Times Magazine, October 9, 1966. 

6. Between 1945 and 1950, specialists connected with the Institute of Pacific Relations, 
a prime McCarthy target, reviewed twenty-two of thirty books about China for the 
New York Times, and thirty of thirty-five books for the New York Herald Tribune. 
From 1952 to 1955, the years of McCarthyite prevalence, not one of these authorities 
was engaged to review a single book by either the Times or the Herald Tribune. These 
figures are from Roger Hilsman's To Move a Nation. 

7. In the Progressive, August 1971. Knoll is Washington editor of the Progressive, and 
coauthor with William McGaffin of Anything But the Truth (G. P. Putnam's, 1968), 
about the credibility gap in Washington. 

8. Stone ceased publication of his newsletter with the issue of December 14, 1971, to 
become a contributing editor of the New York Review of Books. The Weekly is avail- 
able on microfilm from University Microfilms, a subsidiary of Xerox. 

9. In a speech by Clifton Daniel, Times managing editor, on June 1, 1966, to the 
World Press Institute at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and printed the 
next day in full in the Times. 

10. In the Columbia Journalism Review (September/October 1971), an issue de- 
voted almost entirely to the media and the Pentagon documents. 


5. The Receiving End ' 
by Wilfred Burchett 

"It is repugnant for honest people to think that the government of a country 
with the standing of the United States had, for many years, premeditated, pre- 
pared, and planned, down to the most minute details, systematic aggression; a 
criminal war of genocide and biocide against a small people, a small country situ- 
ated 10,000 kilometers and more from America's frontiers; to think that this gov- 
ernment for many years on end has deliberately and knowingly lied to cover up 
the crime, to hide its plans and deceive American public opinion, the American 
Congress, and America's allies as well as its friends and supporters throughout the 

"When American presidents declare that all they want is peace; that they will 
never commit aggression; that they will never resort to force; that all they want 
is to defend democracy and freedom in Vietnam; any amount of people through- 
out the world had difficulty in believing that this was nothing but sheer lies and, 
even worse, cynical cover-ups for the most detailed preparations and plans for 
war. Decent people thought there must be at least a modicum of truth and sin- 
cerity in the word of leaders of one of the most important governments in the 
world. They thought there must be much propaganda in the accusations of the 
'other side' against the White House and the Pentagon. 

"Today, it is high time to inspect the evidence. The truth has been flushed out 
into broad daylight. The official documents, notes, minutes of working sessions, 
directives, circulars — in all 7,000 pages, 2,500,000 words, reveal in black and 
white the extent of the plot and the lies. . . 

"For over 20 years, Yankee imperialism fixed its prey, spread its nets, set its 
traps, orchestrated its propaganda, launched the necessary provocations to end up 
by hurling over 11 million tons of bombs at Vietnam and casting $200 billion 
into the Indochina abyss. . . . Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, finally 
Nixon — Democrats and Republicans, one can hardly imagine more dissimilar 
personalities — have succeeded each other, but Washington's Vietnam and Indo- 
china policy has not deviated an iota. 

"Events have unfolded as in a scenario prepared by a one-track-mind pro- 
ducer. The most murderous weapons have been tried out; the most barbarous 
forms of warfare employed; the most bloodthirsty minions utilized and, when 
necessary, physically liquidated when they outlived their usefulness. 

"For the Vietnamese people who saw the first US warships arrive in Saigon 
waters in March 1950 and from then on saw US military missions at work, 
followed by swarms of Yankee 'advisers' of all types, followed in turn by hordes 
of GIs, the Pentagon Papers merely confirm the opinion about Yankee imperial- 
ism that they have consistently held for 20-odd years. For the Vietnamese, La- 
Copyright © 1972 by Wilfred Burchett. 

The Receiving End 61 

otian, and Cambodian peoples, as for all those who have had to face up to Yankee 
imperialism in recent years, these documents hardly constitute real secrets. For 
we have had to judge the men in Washington by their deeds, not by their speeches; 
and the sequence and logic of these acts amply proved the true nature of Yankee 

"When dealing with matters such as the death of Diem, the refusal to hold the 
1956 elections, the 'Tonkin Gulf incident,' or the eventual use of nuclear weap- 
ons, these documents certainly do not reveal everything. There is still plenty to 
be said! But the essential is there. The policy of intervention, the aggression 
waged by Washington with great obduracy and duplicity against Vietnam and the 
peoples of Indochina. . . 

This must be taken only as a preliminary reaction from Hanoi — in late Sep- 
tember 1971 — based on what the North Vietnamese had seen and heard of the 
Pentagon Papers till that date. It was before the Senator Gravel edition or the 
Government edition had been published and doubtless much more will be heard 
from Hanoi when those much more complete texts have been studied. 

It is quite true that there is still "plenty to be said"; many things have been 
omitted which provide vital clues to understanding the real import of the Papers. 
The documents "hardly constitute real secrets" for those of us present at the re- 
ceiving end of these policies and who have dug hard for confirmatory data from 
the initiating end. McNamara's researchers seem to have missed quite a lot of 
confirmatory data available even in the memoirs of qualified Establishment higher- 
ups. For instance, although the Papers deal in detail with contingency plans for 
joint or unilateral U.S. military intervention from the period of the Dien Bien 
Phu battle right up to the 11th hour of the 1954 Geneva Cease-fire Agreements, 
they do not deal with very firm plans, drawn up immediately after Geneva for a 
unilateral United States invasion of North Vietnam and the occupation of the 
Red River Delta up to, and including Hanoi, for a start. As a "declaration of in- 
tention" and an explanation of what followed, this is crucial. A major participant 
in this planning. Brigadier General James M. Gavin, in a book that attracted 
comparatively little attention, reveals the whole plot. Gavin, at the time of which 
he writes, was Deputy in Charge of Plans to General Matthew B. Ridgway, Army 
Chief of Staff."^ 

After the French "unwisely folded" by signing the 1954 Geneva Agreements, 
Gavin reveals, the Pentagon view, supported by John Foster Dulles and the CIA, 
was that "it was obviously up to us to assume the full burden of combat against 
Communism in that area. . . ." It was in this spirit, he continues, that the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff "began with the highest priority to study a proposal to send combat 
troops into the Red River delta of North Vietnam. . . ." 

It is later made quite clear that this planning started immediately after the 
Geneva Agreements, which in the Pentagon view, represented an unpleasant in- 
terruption in the business of "stopping Communism" for which the United States 
had been footing the bills till then but would now have to take over the actual 

"As Chief of Plans of the Army Staff," continues Gavin, "I was responsible for 
recommending what attitude the Army should take towards this proposal to put 
American ground troops into North Vietnam. . . ." In his consultations, Gavin 
and his colleagues, including "the best Asian experts," concluded that in invading 
North Vietnam they would also be taking on China. The Navy made this quite 
clear by pointing out that they could not guarantee safety for the invasion force 
unless they first occupied the Chinese island of Hainan. After a visit to the area. 

62 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

Gavin came to the conclusion that the invasion would require "eight combat di- 
visions supported by 35 engineering battalions and all the artillery and logistics 
support such mammoth undertakings require. . . 

The fact that the United States had pledged not to use force or "threat of force" 
to upset the Geneva Agreements seems not to have entered into the considerations 
of the planners. As for the danger of war with China: 

Admiral Radford [then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, W.B.] was 
emphatically in favor of landing a force in the Haiphong-Hanoi area, even 
if it meant risking war with Red China. In this he was fully supported by 
the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Chief of Naval Operations 
[continued Gavin]. In my opinion such an operation meant a great risk of 
war. . . . The Navy was unwilling to risk their ships in the Haiphong area 
without first invading and capturing the island. Admiral Radford and the 
Chiefs of the Navy and Air Force felt that, faced with overwhelming power, 
the Red Chinese would not react to this violation of their sovereignty. Gen- 
eral Ridgway and I had grave doubts about the validity of this reason- 
ing. . . ." 

Ridgway, with his Korean experience (a) in getting involved with Chinese troops 
in a ground war and (b) the ineffectiveness of air power in such wars, was against 
the plan. He went over the head of Radford directly to President Eisenhower and 
as a result the proposal was killed. By everything that Gavin writes, this was not 
just a bit of "contingency planning" but a real plan of war which had "highest 
priority" and could not have been initiated without Eisenhower's support. Gavin 
makes it clear that he and Ridgway had the greatest difficulty in getting the plan 
canceled. He refers to "weeks and months" during which "we were to argue 
forcefully and frequently against such a war. . . ." 

How such a war would have been justified, Gavin does not reveal. But the later 
fakery with the "Tonkin Gulf" incident proved that pretexts are no problem once 
the decision has been made! The war, for the moment, was called off. But Gavin 
points out there was a "compromise." There would be a "Vietnamization" of the 
plans. "We would not attack North Vietnam," Gavin continues, "but we would 
support a South Vietnamese government that we hoped would provide a stable, 
independent government that was representative of the people. . . ." Here Gavin 
was writing with his tongue in his cheek. The "compromise" as he knew full well 
was that the United States would place a military machine in the hands of Ngo 
Dinh Diem that would do what Eisenhower had thwarted Dulles, the CIA, and 
Pentagon from doing in 1954. Why this vital link in the chain of intentions is 
omitted from the Pentagon Papers, when there is so much frankness on other 
matters, is difficult to understand. It makes so many other things comprehensible. 
What followed in the South was preparation for the "March to the North." The 
United States took over the training and build-up of Diem's forces; graduates at 
the training schools pledged to "march to the North" and were issued shoulder 
flashes bearing this motto. Gavin reveals that following the abandonment of the 
earlier war plan he was sent to Saigon "early in 1955 ... to discuss political 
and economic plans plus military aid and assistance. . . ." 

As far as I know — and I was in the North from October 1954 until May 1957 
— Ho Chi Minh was not aware of the Dulles-Radford plan, but he was aware of 
secret aggression against the North, immediately after the Geneva Accords went 
into effect. The North Vietnamese were aware of the American hand behind false 
rumors — such as those, spread by a Lansdale team, of Chinese troops raping 

The Receiving End 63 

North Vietnamese girls — and the propaganda campaign to scare Catholics into 
fleeing to the South to escape the A-bombs which would be used against the 
"pagans" who remained in the North. Many of Lansdale's agents deserted — as 
he admits — the moment they set foot in the North, so the Vietnamese were well 
aware of his activities — if not of his personality, and those of his psywar, es- 
pionage, and sabotage teams as detailed in Document 95 [Gravel edition, 1:573- 

By accident I personally stumbled on evidence of their activities at the Hongay- 
Campha coal-mining area. It was toward the end of the 300-day period during 
which the French were allowed to retain an enclave around Haiphong port 
through which their forces were gradually to be evacuated to the South. (Three 
hundred days from the signing of the Geneva Agreements was the period provided 
for completing the regrouping of both sides' armed forces north and south of the 
17th parallel respectively, and also for civilians who wished to change their place 
of residence.) At the coal mines, I was told of a strange incident just before the 
French pulled out to Haiphong, in which a sharp-eyed youngster had noticed a 
mysterious visitor who fumbled around the stacks of coal briquettes at the Campha 
storing area. At first he thought it was just someone helping himself to fuel. Then 
he noticed that the visitor — who always turned up in the evenings— was putting 
briquettes into the stacks. When an advanced guard of Vietminh troops arrived 
he reported this. A watch was kept and the visitor grabbed. His "briquettes" were 
the same size and shape but less shiny than the others. They were found to be 
made of powerful explosives. Fed into locomotive engines or powerhouse and 
factory furnaces, they would have caused tremendous damage with no way of 
tracing the source. 

The Campha culprit admitted that he was one of a number of French under- 
cover agents in the North who had been recruited by the CIA immediately after 
the Geneva Agreements, whisked off to a U.S. base on a Pacific island for a 
crash-course in espionage-sabotage techniques and infiltrated back into the North 
through the Haiphong enclave. While I was at Campha, teams were still patiently 
combing through the mountains of briquettes to collect the explosive dummies. 
My Vietnamese friends asked me not to write about it at the time because they 
did not want Lansdale to know how much they already knew of his activities. 

In his report, Lansdale recounts with some pride how one of his teams "had 
spent the last days of Hanoi in contaminating the oil supply of the bus company 
for a gradual wreckage of engines in the buses, in taking the first actions of a de- 
layed sabotage of the railroad (which required teamwork with a CIA special 
technical team in Japan who performed their part brilliantly) and in writing de- 
tailed notes of potential targets for future paramilitary operations. . . ." Lans- 
dale complains that U.S. adherence to the Geneva Agreements prevented his 
teams "from carrying out the active sabotage it desired to do against the power 
plant, water facilities, harbor and bridge. . . ." (Those jobs were done later by 
the U.S. Air Force!!!) It is worth noting that the sabotage of the bus company 
was specifically aimed at the French concept of economic coexistence with the 
DRV, the bus company being owned and staffed by French personnel. The "first 
actions" for delayed sabotage of the railroad were undoubtedly the planting of 
the explosive "briquettes"! 

"By 31 January [1955]" reported Lansdale, all operational equipment of the 
Binh paramilitary group had been trans-shipped to Haiphong from Saigon. . . . 
We had smuggled into Vietnam about eight and a half tons of supplies for the 
paramilitary group. They included fourteen agent radios, 300 carbines, 90,000 
rounds of carbine ammunition, 50 pistols, 10,000 rounds of pistol ammunition 

64 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 

and 300 pounds of explosives. Two and a half tons were delivered to the Hao^ 
agents in Tonkin, while the remainder was cached along the Red River by SMM 
(Saigon Military Mission which Lansdale headed. W.B.) with the help of the 
Navy. . . ." 

A reason repeatedly given years later by Washington for not engaging in ne- 
gotiations to end America's war in Vietnam was that they could not place any 
reliance in "agreements reached with Communists." Walter Bedell-Smith at the 
closing session of the 1954 Geneva Conference solemnly stated that: "The Gov- 
ernment of the United States of America declares that with regard to the afore- 
said Agreements and paragraphs that: 1 ) it will refrain from the threat or the use 
of force to disturb them, in accordance with Article 2 (Section 4) of the Charter 
of the United Nations. . . . 2) It would view any renewal of the aggression in 
violation of the aforesaid Agreements with grave concern and as seriously threat- 
ening international peace and security." 

"Haiphong was taken over by the Vietminh on 16 May," continues the Lans- 
dale report. "Our Binh and northern Hao teams were in place, completely 
equipped. It had taken a tremendous amount of hard work to beat the Geneva 
deadline, to locate, exfiltrate, train, infiltrate, equip the men of these two teams 
and have them in place ready for actions required against the enemy. . . ." In 
other words in place ready for "the use of force to disturb" the Geneva Agree- 

For a comparison of attitudes, one only has to study Ho Chi Minh's "Appeal 
to the Vietnamese People" on June 22, 1954, the day after the Geneva Cease-fire 
Accords were signed. It can be imagined that fulfilling that part of the agreement 
calling for the evacuation of old Vietminh resistance bases in the South — some of 
which the French had never been able to penetrate from the start of the resistance 
struggle — called for a special effort of discipline and self-sacrifice which only the 
authority of Ho Chi Minh could make acceptable. Families would be separated 
for the two years until reunification; the local people would lose the protection 
the Vietminh had for so long provided. After explaining that the Geneva Agree- 
ments represented a "brilliant victory" for the resistance struggle, Ho Chi Minh 
set the new task as: "to struggle to consolidate peace; to realize national unity, 
independence and democracy. To restore peace, the two parties must first of all 
observe the cease-fire. For that, it is important that the armed forces of both 
parties regroup in two different regions, which means that the limits of both re- 
grouping zones must be well marked. Such delimitation is a temporary measure, a 
transition indispensable to the good implementation of the military agreement 
and to the restoration of peace with a view to the nationwide elections for the 
reunification of the country. . . ." He explained that some areas occupied till 
then by the French would now be in the liberated zone north of the 17th 
parallel and some areas liberated in the South would fall under temporary French 

"I am asking all our compatriots, combatants and cadres, to strictly adhere to 
the political line drawn up by the Party and Government and to correctly apply 
the measures taken in our struggle to consolidate peace, realize unity, independ- 
ence and democracy. 

"All of you, truthful patriots, no matter to what social class you belong, no 
matter what God you believe in, no matter what side you were with, I invite you 
all to cooperate frankly in the struggle for the sake of the people and of the Na- 
tion, for peace, for the unity, independence and democracy of our beloved Viet- 
nam. . . ." 

These were sacred instructions for every Vietminh cadre. Some 140,000 of 

The Receiving End 65 

them — military and civilian — were then withdrawn to the North, in accordance 
with the regrouping procedures agreed to at Geneva to separate the combatant 

Whereas Ho Chi Minh accepted the Geneva Agreement as a solemn interna- 
tional treaty to be respected no matter what the sacrifices involved, Eisenhower 
treated it as a hindrance, to be circumvented by any means whatsoever, to Ameri- 
can global plans to "stop communism." Thus the North Vietnamese are right in 
seeing one single scenario from March 16, 1950 — when the U.S. aircraft-carrier 
Boxer and the destroyers Sticknel and Anderson, under 7th Fleet Commander, 
Rear Admiral Arleigh Burke, anchored in Saigon Harbor in support of the French, 
through the Lansdale "cloak and dagger" operations — right up to the 1 1 million 
tons of bombs on Vietnam and U.S. aggression extended to Laos and Cambodia. 
Developing variations of a single theme of U.S. neo-colonialist aggression! 

Another curious omission in the Pentagon Papers is the extent of Pentagon 
responsibility, at the start at least, of the ill-fated action at Dien Bien Phu. Some 
space is given to various plans like "Operation Vulture," aimed at saving the 
French from final defeat, but nothing is said of the initial US encouragement 
to the French to jump headlong into the trap. For the Vietnamese people, how- 
ever, Dien Bien Phu was almost as much an American as a French defeat. It 
was the wrecks of American planes, American tanks, American artillery pieces 
that later littered the battlefield. The "Navarre Plan," of which Dien Bien Phu 
was a key element, had been approved in Washington and extra funds earmarked 
accordingly. On November 23, 1953, General Thomas Trapnell, chief of the 
US Military Aid and Advisory Group (MAAG) set up in Saigon as far back as 
October 1950, inspected the Dien Bien Phu positions together with Generals 
Henri Navarre, C-in-C of the French Expeditionary Corps, and Rene Cogny, 
commanding French troops in the Tonkin area, where Dien Bien Phu was sit- 
uated. Trapnell made two more inspection trips (on December 19, 1953, with a 
group of US miliary officers, and on January 14, 1954) to check up on the dis- 
position of some $10 million worth of US equipment. On February 2, General 
"Iron Mike" O'Daniel, C-in-C of US forces in the Pacific, paid a visit and decided 
to appoint three American officers to remain on the spot and help with the final 
preparations for the battle. (Dien Bien Phu was intended to be the vital war- 
winning operation by which the elite troops of the Expeditionary Corps, having 
been parachuted into Dien Bien Phu valley, deep inside Vietminh-controUed ter- 
ritory, were to outflank and overrun the main Vietminh base area in northern 
Tonkin.) Had Dien Bien Phu succeeded, much would no doubt have been heard 
of the key role of the United States in the victory. As it was, it was written off 
as a French military blunder! 

A week before the Geneva Conference — by which time it was clear that Dien 
Bien Phu was doomed, as Ho Chi Minh at his jungle headquarters assured me it 
was right at the start of the battle — the Pentagon Papers report the National Se- 
curity Council as urging President Eisenhower to warn the French that "US aid 
to France would automatically cease upon Paris' conclusion of an unsatisfactory 
settlement" and that the United States should approach the puppet governments 
of the three states of Indochina "with a view to continuing the anti-Vietminh 
struggle in some other form, including unilateral American involvement 'if nec- 
essary.' The NSC clearly viewed the Indochina situation with extreme anxiety, 
and its action program amounted to unprecedented proposals to threaten France 
with the serious repercussions of a sell-out in Southeast Asia . . ." (Gravel edi- 
tion, 1:117). 

This was the spirit in which the USA approached the Geneva Conference and 

66 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 

the implementation of the Cease-fire Agreements. British Foreign Secretary An- 
thony Eden is quoted as reveaHng that at one point, Walter Bedell Smith, who 
headed the US delegation, showed him a "telegram from President Eisenhower 
advising him to do everything in his power to bring the conference to an end as 
rapidly as possible, on the grounds that the Communists were only spinning 
things out to suit their own military purposes" (Gravel ed., 1:138). 

Much of the 58 pages of the chapter on the Geneva Conference deals with 
the efforts of Dulles to wreck it; to avoid a cease-fire at all costs in favor of 
international military intervention on the Korean model. With the equivalent of 
the entire yearly output of officers from the St. Cyr Academy — France's West 
Point — being lost each year in Indochina, the French began to wonder whether 
it was worth it. From the government down to the troops dying in ricefield mud, 
it gradually began to dawn that France itself was fighting and dying for the 
United States. The United States by the time of Geneva was footing 80 percent 
of the bill but also, as former premier Paul Reynaud cried out in the French 
National Assembly: "You Americans draw from Indochina 89 percent of the 
natural rubber and 52 percent of the tin you need for your consumption. There- 
fore on the material side of things it is for your interests rather than ours that 
we are fighting for Indochina." 

Even Henri Navarre, the last would-be "war-winner" general, wrote later that 
"the Americans helped us materially but on the other hand they fought us morally. 
While they made use of the French 'fist' — essential to their anti-Communist game 
— they worked to undermine and even destroy our interests." ^ Navarre was lucky 
that the war ended before he suffered the final humiliation of having the "French- 
ification" label stuck to his war efforts. But that he had virtually become an 
American mercenary, he had started to realize. 

Despite the efforts of Dulles, agreement was reached at Geneva. While most 
of the world heaved a great sigh of relief that one more shooting war had been 
stopped, Lansdale went full steam ahead with his secret war against the North; 
Dulles, the CIA and the Pentagon planned the full-scale invasion, and while the 
US propaganda services shouted at "Communist bad faith," Dulles went ahead 
to set up the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) to offset the Geneva 
Agreements and violate them by placing South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia 
under SEATO "protection." 

Meanwhile the United States started to take over from the French in South 
Vietnam. A serious omission in the chapter on the "Origins of the Insurgency 
in South Vietnam" is the failure to mention the US police role and responsibility 
in putting the finger on those who had been active in the anti-French resistance 
struggle. This was done within the framework of a "Denounce Communists" cam- 
paign almost immediately after the cease-fire, with police teams from Michigan 
State University helping behind the scenes, with everything from up-to-date fin- 
gerprinting and electronic filing methods to torture gadgets used in interrogation. 
Ngo Dinh Diem, set up in Saigon as premier at US insistence just before the 
Cease-fire Agreements were concluded, took the view that the resistance struggle 
had been "illegal"; thus all who helped were "criminals by association." Paragraph 
14c of the Geneva Agreements, banning any form of reprisals against those who 
had helped one side or the other during the war, was ignored in the South from 
the start. 

Although these operations were not directly under the Pentagon, reactions to 
them certainly contributed to the "origins of the insurgency." A booklet issued 
by the Information Department of the DRV Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1962 
described the situation as early as 1955 as follows: "USOM [US Operations 

The Receiving End 67 

Mission] spread its network of 'advisers' to all branches of economy and finance. 
'Advisers' were to be found in the ministries of Economy, Finance, Agriculture, 
etc. They were also to be found in many central offices. They participated in the 
elaboration of general programs and plans to implement them. They controlled 
the carrying-out of those plans and, in particular the use of the aid funds and the 
allotment of foreign currency. Through USOM, the United States controlled all 
economic activities of the Ngo Dinh Diem administration. 

"Other branches of Diem's administrative machinery fell under the control of 
the Mission of the 'Michigan State University' (MSU), a body which reminds 
one of the US espionage organization labeled 'Free Europe's University.' The 
MSU Mission had its 'advisers' in the branches of Education, Labor, etc., but its 
main activities consisted in organizing the security and police services, and train- 
ing their personnel. General Lansdale, famous for his implication in many coups 
d'etat and cases of espionage, was for a long time an 'adviser' to this mission, in 
charge of security and police. . . ." By the end of 1954 the police were busy 
arresting and physically liquidating anyone in the South named as having taken 
part in the resistance struggle. 

One of the first cases of mass reprisals brought to the notice of the Interna- 
tional Control Commission (India as Chairman, Poland and Canada) was at Binh 
Thanh village on the Mekong River. The ICC had been informed that, early in 
December 1954, 74 villagers had been arrested on the pretext that they had sup- 
ported the resistance. Of these 24 were said to have been executed, after which 
their bodies had been burned and the ashes thrown into the Mekong. The ICC 
team arrived at Binh Thanh on December 8, and were lodged in a motorboat 
anchored in the river. The village was occupied by Diemist troops with machine- 
gun posts at every crossroads. Contact with the population was difficult but by 
the end of the day, seven witnesses had come forward confirming there had been 
mass arrests and executions and threats of death against any who testified before 
the ICC. Next morning the bodies of two of the seven were found, including an 
old woman who had been beheaded and disemboweled. The other five were under 
arrest. While the team members were discussing their next move, three sampans 
appeared out of the mists, the occupants asking if security could be guaranteed 
for themselves and others who wanted to testify. A French liaison officer gave the 
necessary assurances. An hour later a flotilla of 95 sampans appeared with almost 
500 persons aboard. They had been in hiding since the massacre, which they 
confirmed ^ with minute details as to the story of the arrests, massacre and dis- 
posal of bodies. This was one of scores of such cases of mass reprisals confirmed 
by the ICC. 

I reported at the time^ that "Up to the end of July 1955 . . . according to 
incomplete figures forwarded by General Nguyen Vo Giap to the International 
Control Commission, there had been over 3,000 cases of reprisals against former 
resistance supporters in South Vietnam, resulting in over 6,000 killed, wounded 
and missing and more than 25,000 arrested. . . ." Added to these figures were 
an estimated 7,000 killed and twice as many wounded when Diem's troops at- 
tacked the pro-French armed sects, the Binh Xuyen in Saigon and its outskirts 
and the Hoa Hao in the Mekong delta to the west. 

On June 6, 1955, the government of the DRV had declared its readiness "to 
open the Consultative Conference with the competent representative authorities 
of the South, from July 20, 1955, onward, to discuss the preparation of free 
general elections to be held over the entire territory of Vietnam during the 
month of July 1956. . . ." (As provided for in the Geneva Agreements.) 

The Pentagon Papers report that: "By the time the deadlines for election con- 

68 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

sultations fell due in July 1955, South Vietnam was sovereign de facto as well as 
de jure, waxing strong with US aid, and France was no longer in a position to 
exert strong influence on Diem's political actions. As early as January 1955, Pres- 
ident Diem was stating publicly that he was unlikely to proceed with the Geneva 
elections . . ." (Gravel ed., 1:245) . 

As the French were more and more openly abdicating their responsibilities and 
had not reacted to the June 6 Declaration, Hanoi addressed a further note to the 
"Ngo Dinh Diem Administration" on July 19 — a very mild note pointing out that 
as both sides' armed forces had completed regroupment this had created "the 
necessary basis for the achievement in the near future of a political settle- 
ment. . . ." Until this time it should be noted — something ignored by the Pen- 
tagon Papers — that the United States, the French and Diem had enjoyed only 
advantages from the Geneva Agreements. Namely, the French had been able to 
withdraw their forces intact from untenable positions — after the Dien Bien Phu 
debacle — north of the 17th parallel; in return the Vietminh forces had abandoned 
key base areas in the South; some 800,000 Catholics had been moved from the 
North to the South to bolster Diem's fanatically pro-Catholic regime. Now was 
to come the "pro" part of the quid pro quo for the Vietminh — elections to unify 
the country. "The Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam," con- 
tinued the July 19 note, "suggests that you nominate your representatives to hold, 
together with its own representatives, the Consultative Conference as from July 
20, 1955, onwards, as provided for in the Geneva Agreements, at a place agree- 
able to both sides on Vietnamese territory, in order to discuss the problem of 
national reunification through free nationwide elections." 

The reply came next morning when military trucks laden with uniformed 
youths arrived opposite the Majestic and Gallieni hotels, the residential head- 
quarters of the International Control Commission. Armed with axes, pick-handles 
and machetes, they sacked the offices and private rooms of ICC members as part 
of the celebration of Diem's officially designated "day of shame" (the first anni- 
versary of the Geneva Agreements). 

Dulles is quoted in the Pentagon Papers as having commented on Diem's re- 
jection of the Consultations: "Neither the United States Government nor the 
Government of Viet-Nam is, of course, a party to the Geneva armistice agree- 
ments. We did not sign them, and the Government of Viet-Nam did not sign 
them and, indeed, protested against them . . ." (Gravel ed., 1:245). To which 
the comment of the editors of the Papers is: "Thus, backed by the US, Diem 
obdurately refused to open talks with the Hanoi government. He continued to 
maintain that the Government of South Vietnam had not signed the Geneva 
Agreements and thus was not bound by them." In this way the Vietminh were 
cheated of the full fruits of victory in their infinitely difficult and heroic struggle 
for independence and the foundation was laid for the terrible war that followed. 
Diem, put into power by the United States and objectively speaking only there 
because the Vietminh had beaten the French, stepped up his attempts to exter- 
minate the former resistance activists and their supporters: The ferocity of the 
repression was in direct proportion to the military strength the United States put 
at his disposal. 

Ho Chi Minh had appealed for political struggle to demand the 1956 elections, 
so the political repression was also directed against any who agitated for the 
elections or anything else connected with implementation of the Geneva Agree- 
ments. To support the latter became a "crime." Committees set up in defense 
of peace and the Geneva Agreements were dissolved, leading members — including 
the head of the Saigon-Cholon committee, the lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho — were 

The Receiving End 69 

arrested. (Nguyen Huu Tho was later rescued from prison by NFL guerrillas and 
became President of the National Liberation Front.) Those who took advantage 
of the sections of the Geneva Agreements guaranteeing full political freedoms 
and who tried to use these freedoms in defense of the Agreements were marked 
down, if not for immediate arrest, for arrest and extermination later. 

"The DRV repeatedly tried to engage the Geneva machinery, forwarding mes- 
sages to the Government of South Vietnam in July 1955, May and June 1956, 
March 1958, July 1959 and July 1960, proposing consultations to negotiate 'free 
general elections by secret ballot,' and to liberalize North-South relations in gen- 
eral," comments the Pentagon Papers on this aspect of US-Saigon policy. "Each 
time the GVN replied with disdain, or with silence. The 17th parallel, with its 
demilitarized zone on either side, became de facto an international boundary, 
and — since Ngo Dinh Diem's rigid refusal to traffic with the North excluded all 
economic exchanges and even an interstate postal agreement — one of the most 
restricted boundaries in the world. The DRV appealed to the UK and the USSR 
as co-chairmen of the Geneva Conference to no avail. In January 1956, on DRV 
urging. Communist China requested another Geneva Conference to deal with 
the situation. But the Geneva Co-Chairmen, the USSR and the UK, responded 
only by extending the functions of the International Control Commission beyond 
its 1956 expiration date. ... If the political mechanism for reunifying Vietnam 
in 1956 proved impractical, the blame lies at least in part with the Geneva con- 
ferees themselves, who postulated an ideal political settlement incompatible with 
the physical and psychological dismemberment of Vietnam they themselves un- 
dertook in July 1954" (Gravel ed., 1:247). This comment is typical of many 
such fatuous conclusions by the compilers. They might at least have added: "The 
major part of the blame however lies with the United States which set out to 
wreck the Geneva Agreements from the start, especially any provisions which 
would have extended 'communist control' south of the demarcation line." Diem 
was a US creation, fed, financed and armed by the United States, with Americans 
controlling every key aspect of policymaking and implementation. 

Repression and massacre became the order of the day. Overcrowded jails 
could not house the victims. Presidential Order No. 6, of January 11, 1956, pro- 
vided in Article 1 that "Awaiting the restoration of peace and order, individuals 
considered dangerous to national defense and common security may, on execu- 
tive order taken by the President of the Republic as proposed by the Minister of 
the Interior, be confined to a concentration camp, or forced to reside, or deported 
far from their dwelling place or far from fixed locations, or subjected to admin- 
istrative control . . ." with appropriate penalties stipulated for those who 
evaded the concentration camps and controls. 

Conditions in the jails were later described by deputy Tran Ngoc Ban to the 
South Vietnamese National Assembly on January 3, 1958, as follows: 

Let us take one cell among so many others at the Gia Dinh prison. 
Forty-five feet long by a little less than eleven feet wide. In this area are 
generally packed 150 detainees. Simple arithmetic shows us that there is 
room for three persons per square meter. It is in this place that detainees 
sleep, eat, wash themselves and ease their bowels. A bucket with a lid is 
put in a corner of the room for that purpose. It suffices that each of the 
prisoners uses it once a day for five minutes and the bucket would remain 
open for twelve hours. . . . 

As for possibilities of sitting or lying down . . . squatting they have just 
enough room; sitting cross-legged they are very cramped. At night they can 

70 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

just sleep lying with their knees under their chin. So a quarter of the de- 
tainees have to stand up to allow the others to stretch out for a moment. 
It is a fraternal gesture but also a necessity. Because of the sweltering 
heat . . . many detainees are unable to bear wearing a garment and remain 
half-naked. They must live day and night in this room and only go out 
into the courtyard once a day for a meal, which is taken outside even in 
rainy weather. Medicines hardly exist. . . ^ 

For having the courage to reveal this, Tran Ngoc Ban, M.P., was arrested and 
sent to join the inmates whose fate he had described. He was talking of those 
fortunate enough to have escaped the extermination squads that were hard at 
work physically liquidating what were in fact political opponents of the Diem 

During the first year of its activities, the International Control Commission 
investigated 40 violations of Article 14C in the South, some of them involving 
the massacre of hundreds of people. The balance of that first year of "peace" 
in the South was 16 violations confirmed, 13 investigations completed but find- 
ings not published, 8 cases under investigation and 3 cases in which evidence 
was insufficient to prove violations. There were no violations of 14C in the North. 
Not included in the list was a case on July 7, 1955, in which a battalion of 
Diem's security forces surrounded the tiny hamlets of Tan Lap and Tan Hiep 
in Quang Ngai province — a guerrilla area in the resistance struggle. Every man, 
woman and child at Tan Lap was killed and all the males at Tan Hiep on the 
evening of July 7. Five days later the security troops returned to Tan Hiep, 
arrested 15 women, raped them, then took them to a neighboring hamlet of 
An Che and killed them. The following day they killed the remaining three adults 
and 15 children at Tan Hiep. Not a living soul was left in these two hamlets — 
30 men, 30 women and 32 children had been massacred. Detailed reports were 
made to the ICC, but investigation of the case was blocked by the Diemist au- 

By early 1956, Diem had almost completely paralyzed the work of the ICC, 
as the following report shows: "Mobile Team 117 conducted an investigation 
asked for by the People's Army of Vietnam, Note No. 141-CT/I/B, dated 
March 2, 1956, on the massacre by the South Vietnamese authorities of 21 per- 
sons buried alive at the marketplace at Cho Duoc and reprisals against 14 other 
persons of the villages of An Tra and Tan Luu (Quang Nam province) but the 
interested party refused to allow the Commission to have a mobile Team in- 
vestigate this case." ^ 

"Security was the focus of US aid," reports the Pentagon Papers dealing with 
this early period. "More than 75 percent of the economic aid the US provided 
in the same period went into the GVN military budget; thus at least $8 out of 
every $10 of aid provided Vietnam went directly toward security. In addition, 
other amounts of nominally economic aid (e.g., that for public administration) 
went toward security forces, and aid for agriculture and transportation princi- 
pally funded projects with strategic purposes and with an explicit military ra- 
tionale. For example, a 20-mile stretch of highway from Saigon to Bien Hoa, 
built at Gen. Williams' instance for specifically military purposes, received more 
US economic aid than all funds provided for labor, community development, 
social welfare, health, and education in the years 1954-1961" (Gravel ed., 1:268). 
Would US taxpayers be proud of this use of their taxes? 

If one compares the reality of the unilateral war against the people of South 
Vietnam waged against an unarmed population for its political opposition to a 

The Receiving End 71 

fascist regime with the description given by that semiotficial apologist for US 
Vietnam policies, Douglas Pike, then one has some measure of the deceit of 
public opinion. Pike is trying to make the point that the NLF was entirely a 
creation of Hanoi. "Of necessity it must have been created in Hanoi and im- 
ported," the Pentagon Papers credit Pike with writing. "A revolutionary organi- 
zation must build; it begins with persons suffering genuine grievances, who are 
slowly organized and whose militancy gradually increases until a critical mass 
is reached and the revolution explodes. Exactly the reverse was the case with 
the NLF. It sprang full-blown into existence and then was fleshed out. The 
grievances were developed or manufactured almost as a necessary afterthought" 
(Gravel ed., 1:346). 

Reality was that from 1959 onwards, especially after the passing of Law 10/59, 
providing for death or life imprisonment for a wide range of offenses against the 
government, there were spontaneous, sporadic and unorganized acts of resistance 
by those who "preferred to die on our feet rather than on our knees" as one of 
them expressed it to me. Later these acts became more generalized and to co- 
ordinate and give correct leadership the NLF was formed in December 1960. By 
the time the NLF's first congress was held (February 16 to March 3, 1962), and 
according to incomplete figures compiled by NLF committees at provincial and 
district levels: 105,000 former resistance supporters had been killed, 350,000 at 
that moment were being held in 874 prisons and concentration camps, including 
over 6,000 children, many of them born in prison. These are what Pike describes 
as "grievances manufactured as an afterthought." 

If I have dealt at length and in detail with some aspects of the early years 
after the Geneva Agreements, this is because there are vast gaps in the Pentagon 
Papers' account of the period which have to be sketched in to understand the 
monstrous injustice done the Vietnamese people, even before the US invasion 
with combat troops in 1965 and the start of the bombings of the North. They 
were cheated of the fruits of their struggle against the French, essentially be- 
cause of US intervention. It is against this background and the merciless, bar- 
barous years "of the long knives," that the people of the South took to arms to 
defend man's most ancient rights to defend his life and home. Some knowledge 
of what went on in this period is helpful, incidentally, in understanding why the 
DRV-PRG negotiators in Paris are tough, and determined that this time they 
really get what they fought for — total independence on terms which can never 
again be violated. 

The North Vietnamese date the next phase of US intervention — preparing for 
and waging "special war" — from the arrival of the Staley Mission in mid-June 
1961. President of the Stanford Research Institute, economist by profession, 
Eugene Staley was soon dabbling in affairs which had little to do with his aca- 
demic qualifications. His approach may be judged from the following passage 
quoted in the Pentagon Papers: "Vietnam is today under attack in a bitter, total 
struggle which involves its survival as a free nation. Its enemy, the Viet Cong, 
is ruthless, resourceful and elusive. This enemy is supplied, reinforced, and cen- 
trally directed by the international communist apparatus operating through Hanoi. 
To defeat it requires the mobiHzation of the entire economic, military, psycho- 
logical, and social resources of the country and vigorous support from the United 
States . . ." (Gravel ed., 11:63). (It is worth noting that four months later the 
NIE — National Intelligence Estimate — gave the total number of guerrillas as 
17,000, of whom "80-90 percent had been locally recruited and . . . little evi- 
dence that the VC relied on external supplies. . . ." The Diem army at the time 
was 170,000 with another 80,000 paramilitary units. For the military muscle of 

72 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

the "international communist apparatus" 17,000 guerrillas, many of them armed 
only with clubs, hoes and bicycle chains, etc., at the time, seems modest to say the 
least. John Kenneth Galbraith, visiting the South a month after the NIE report, 
believed the number of guerrillas was closer to 10,000.) Staley recommended 
building the regular Diem army up to 200,000, to be increased later to 270,000. 
The Pentagon Papers dismiss the Staley report as "not much more than a piece of 
paper" and say the President agreed with its three basic tenets: (a) Security 
requirements must, for the present, be given first priority; (b) military opera- 
tions will not achieve lasting results unless economic and social programs are 
continued and accelerated; (c) it is our joint interest to accelerate measures to 
achieve a self-sustaining economy and a free and peaceful society in Viet-Nam." 

Hanoi's information about the Staley Mission was much more complete and 
reflects another of those important omissions of the Pentagon Papers. On Feb- 
ruary 28, 1962, the Foreign Ministry of the DRV published the following details: 

Three phases are contemplated in the Staley Plan: 

First Phase: "Pacification" of South Vietnam within 18 months and "es- 
tablishment of bases" in North Vietnam. 

Second Phase: Economic rehabilitation and reinforcement of the South 
Vietnam economy, increase of sabotage in North Vietnam. 

Third Phase: Development of the South Vietnam economy, and offensive 
against North Vietnam. 

For the first phase, considered an extremely important one, Staley has laid 
down a series of measures, including: 

Increase of the strength of the South Vietnam regular army from 150,000 
to 170,000 men by the end of 1961. 

Increase of the strength of the civil guard from 68,000 to 100,000 men and 
turning it into regular forces. 

Increase of the strength of the police from 45,000 to 90,000 men. 

Reinforcing the "self-defense" corps in the villages to the extent required. 

Regroupment of villages and concentration of the people into "prosperity 
zones" and "strategic hamlets" which are actually camouflaged concentra- 
tion camps; establishment of a no-man's land starting from the provisional 
military demarcation line and running along the frontier between South 
Vietnam on the one hand, and Laos and Cambodia on the other, setting up 
of 100 new "prosperity zones" in the delta of the Mekong, which are to be 
imbricated with a network of "strategic hamlets" fenced in by bamboo 
hedges, barbed wire and control posts, for the purpose of concentrating 
nearly 1,000,000 peasants. 

Increase of the aid to the Ngo Dinh Diem Administration to carry out the 
above-mentioned plan.^^ 

Far from being "not much more than a piece of paper" this was the blueprint 
for a vast military campaign, very soon to be run by the United States itself, to 
try and herd the whole of South Vietnam's peasantry into 16,000 concentration 
camps disguised as "strategic hamlets." I published details of the Staley Plan — 
and the stepped-up dollar allocations to finance it — at the time in newspaper 
articles, also in a book, with the comment that "no peasants in the world had 

The Receiving End 73 

so many dollars per capita lavished on their extermination." Also that "General 
Maxwell Taylor was sent from October 10 to 25 (1961) to work out supple- 
mentary details of the Staley Plan in view of a decision taken a few days earlier 
by the National Security Council on direct US intervention. . . ." Staley's 
monstrous "strategic hamlet" program which brought the whole of the peasantry 
out in armed revolt, is dismissed as "economic and social programs" in the Pen- 
tagon Papers and the consequences as "grievances . . . manufactured almost as 
a necessary afterthought" by Pike. 

One of Maxwell Taylor's contributions which, if Hanoi knew about at the 
time, did not reveal, was to start direct US military intervention camouflaged as 
a "humanitarian" Task Force of 6,000 to 8,000 men for "flood relief." In an 
"eyes only for the President" cable from the Philippines (presumably on October 
25) Taylor reports that "the interim Communist goal — en route to total take- 
over — appears to be a neutral Southeast Asia, detached from US protection. 
This strategy is well on the way to success in Vietnam. . . ." To counter this 
"dangerous and immoral" possibility (to quote from John Foster Dulles' charac- 
terization of neutrality), Taylor recommended as his first point that "upon re- 
quest from the Government of Vietnam to come to its aid in resisting the in- 
creasing aggressions of the Viet-Cong and in repairing the ravages of the Delta 
flood which, in combination, threaten the lives of its citizens and the security of 
the country, the US Government offer to join the GV in a massive joint effort 
as part of a total mobilization of GVN resources to cope with both the Viet- 
Cong (VC) and the ravages of the flood. ... In support of the foregoing broad 
commitment . . . the US Government will engage in a joint survey of the con- 
ditions in the provinces to assess the social, political, intelligence and military 
factors bearing on the prosecution of the counterinsurgency . . ." etc., etc. 
Taylor outlines a most comprehensive plan for stepped-up intelligence and actual 
military operations over the whole of South Vietnam, always under the guise of 
"flood relief." In a second "eyes only for the President" cable apparently sent 
the same day, Taylor emphasizes the necessity for speed — otherwise "the pos- 
sibility of emphasizing the humanitarian mission will wane. . . ." With the 
Taylor mission was William Jorden of the State Department,!^ who summed up 
his impression of the underlying reasons for the situation: "Intrigue, nepotism 
and even corruption might be accepted, for a time, if combined with efficiency 
and visible progress. When they accompany administrative paralysis and steady 
deterioration, they become intolerable. . . ." (Gravel ed., 11:95.) 

President Kennedy did not accept the "Flood Task Force" idea but did opt 
to send in US military personnel by the end of 1961. Decisive probably in the 
decision, if not the manner of intervention, was a memo by Defense Secretary 
McNamara of November 8, supporting Taylor's recommendations. There is a 
fascinating estimation of McNamara's that "Hanoi and Peiping may intervene 
openly . . ." but even so "the maximum US forces required on the ground in 
Southeast Asia will not exceed six divisions or about 205,000 men . . ." (Gravel 
ed., 11:108). (In his jungle headquarters some years later, discussing the possi- 
bility of the commitment of US ground forces, the NLF president Nguyen Huu 
Tho told me that he estimated that if the United States decided to intervene, 
they would probably put in around 500,000 troops. This was at the Lunar New 
Year 1964, but the NLF president did not have the benefit of McNamara's com- 
puters!) However it proves that the Pentagon and White House were well aware 
in early November 1961 that they had embarked on the step-by-step course of 
full-scale warfare in South Vietnam. 

In order to justify the despatch of the first troops, Jorden was given the task 

74 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

of rushing out a "white paper" to prove that the whole problem in the South 
was "aggression and subversion" from the North. There is a Rusk-McNamara 
recommendation to the President, dated November 11, point five of which pro- 
poses that as the US military personnel to be sent would be a violation of the 
Geneva Agreements, the government "publish the 'Jorden report' as a US 'white 
paper,' transmitting it as simultaneously as possible to the governments of all 
countries with which we have diplomatic relations, including the Communist 
states . . ." (Gravel ed., 11:115). This was done. When it came out — as a 
"Blue Book" — Robert Kennedy, then Attorney General, is reported to have 
called Jorden in and said, "Bill — there is not a single fact in that report that 
would stand up in a court of law." 

Confirmation that Hanoi's information on the Staley Plan was correct was 
soon to come in operational terms and as regards the Third Phase of an offen- 
sive against the North, there is a passage in Maxwell Taylor's full report of 
November 3, in which — waxing more and more enthusiastic as he moves from 
"flood control" to broader prospects — he writes: "It is clear to me that the time 
may come in our relations to Southeast Asia when we must declare our intention 
to attack the source of guerrilla aggression in North Vietnam and impose on the 
Hanoi Government a price for participating in the current war which is com- 
mensurate with the damage being inflicted on its neighbors to the South . . ." 
(Gravel ed., 11:98). 

It is generally considered that US intervention started on December 11, 1961, 
when two helicopter companies of 36 Shawnee helicopters and 370 officers and 
men of the US army together with 7 T-28 trainer-combat planes were landed 
in Saigon. But Hanoi reported that a squadron of "B-26" bombers "and several 
hundred US officers, NCOs and troops arrived at the Bien Hoa air base on 
November 10, 1961. 

While the State Department was trying to peddle the myth of North Vietnam's 
"aggression and subversion" against the South to cover up the start of its own 
war of aggression against the whole Vietnamese people, there was very real 
"aggression and subversion" being carried out by CIA-directed operations against 
the North. "On July 24, 1961, General Arthur D. Trudeau, Chief of Research 
and Development of the US armed forces, a specialist in 'activities of subversion 
and sabotage' in the socialist countries, author of a plan for sabotage and sub- 
version in Eastern Europe and North Vietnam,' came in person to South Viet- 
nam," 1^ reports a document published by the Press and Information Depart- 
ment of the DRV's foreign ministry, in 1964. "Since then," continues this docu- 
ment, "under the guidance of the CIA, the armed forces of the United States 
and its agents, starting from South Vietnam and sometimes from US bases in 
the Pacific, have made frequent intrusions into the air space and territorial wa- 
ters of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Spy commandos, direcdy organ- 
ized, trained and equipped by US specialists, have been repeatedly smuggled in 
groups into North Vietnam by land, by sea and by air for the purposes of 
espionage, provocation and sabotage. 

"They are usually South Vietnam Army non-commissioned officers and men 
born in North Vietnam, or youths who had been forcibly evacuated from North 
to South Vietnam by the French Union Forces. They are well acquainted with 
various regions in North Vietnam, where some of them also have relatives. They 
had been enlisted by the US intelligence agencies and their men into 'Special 
Force' units under Colonel Lam Son, who had replaced Colonel Le Quang 
Tung.i^ They underwent training in the centers of Nha Trang, Tourane (Da- 

The Receiving End 75 

nang) or Saigon, and in some cases in Taiwan, Guam or Okinawa. They were 
initiated into the secret of the job by US mihtary and inteUigence experts. 

"They were subsequently sent to North Vietnam with instructions to engage, 
depending on the cases, in various activities: collection of intelligence data — 
military, political, economic and otherwise, psychological warfare: distribution 
of leaflets, dissemination of false and tendentious news, kidnapping or assassina- 
tion of officials, army men and civilians with a view to extorting intelligence 
data or creating an atmosphere of insecurity, sabotage of defense installations, 
warehouses, factories and workshops, mines, bridges, roads, railways and setting 
up of local spy-rings or hotbeds of armed activities particularly in remote hilly 
areas, with the specific aim of eventually starting 'guerrilla' operations in North 

'To achieve the above objectives, the United States and the South Vietnam 
Administration have undertaken large-scale smuggling of spy-commandos into 
North Vietnam, heedless of their agents' fate, the successful outcome of only 
one operation out of a hundred being already, in their eyes, a success. 

"But, in the face of the vigilance and the patriotism being displayed by the 
people of North Vietnam, they will reap only bitter setbacks. The US news 
agency UPI itself was compelled to admit openly on February 22, 1964, that 
'about 85 to 90 percent (of course these figures are below the actual ones — Ed.) 
of the South Vietnamese guerrilla specialists airdropped or otherwise smuggled 
into North Vietnam were either killed or captured.' . . .^^ 

"In spite of many serious defeats in South Vietnam and the shameful failure 
of their provocation and sabotage vis-a-vis the DRV, the United States and the 
South Vietnam administration are still contemplating 'major sabotage raids 
which would have a quick and serious effect' . . ." 

The booklet then lists 62 cases of air violations, usually associated with the 
dropping of commandos or attempts to establish air-ground liaison with those 
already dropped and 22 naval operations for the same purpose. 

Such groups were almost always rounded up within hours of being dropped 
or landed. The Foreign Ministry documents cite many specific cases. For ex- 

At about 1 A.M. on April 13, 1963, an aircraft coming from South Viet- 
nam intruded into the airspace of North Vietnam and dropped a group of 
spy-commandos on a hilly area northwest of Kien Thanh commune at the 
limits of Ha Bac and Lang Son provinces. Immediately after the landing 
and before they had time to come into contact with one another and to hide 
their equipment underground, the spy-commandos were rounded up by the 
local security forces, militia and people. In their stampede, they left behind 
three cases of weapons, signal equipment, instruments for sabotage, food ra- 
tions and medicines, six spare parachutes, six plastic hats and parachutists' 
cotton-padded attire. Continuing their pursuit, the local people and armed 
forces successively arrested five spy-commandos and shot dead a sixth one 
who had tried to oppose resistance, and who . . . was subsequently identi- 
fied as Luong Van Pho, sabotage agent. . . . 

They have been sent to North Vietnam with the following task: 

— to sabotage defense installations, economic establishments, warehouses, 

bridges and means of transport and communication; 
— to collect intelligence information; 

76 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/ Vol. V 

— to kidnap and assassinate officials, armymen and simple civilians; 
— to establish spy-rings, to corrupt and sow dissension among the various 
nationalities in the area. 

The ringleader was sentenced to death in a public trial on July 10, 1963, in 
Lang Son, the others to from 10 years to life imprisonment. Typical of the state- 
ments was that of Than Van Kinh, head of the group and sentenced to life im- 
prisonment. Apart from the technical details of the mission, he testified that he 
and the others "had been trained by US advisers in intelligence work, the use 
of mines and explosives for sabotage purposes, parachute-jumping, the kidnap- 
ping of officials, etc. Before leaving for North Vietnam, we were briefed by two 
US advisers and Captain Anh, who assigned to us the following task: to sabotage 
the railways and National Road No. 1, railway stations, bridges and sluices, 
water tanks and locomotives, etc. . . ." 

Four months before the Taylor mission and Jorden's fable, an American plane 
had dropped a group of spy commandos in Quang Binh province — just north of 
the 17th parallel — and a month later — just after midnight on July 2, 1961, a 
C47 was shot down in Kim Son district, Ninh Binh province and all members 
of a group of 10 commandos were captured. (One had bailed out and landed 
on the roof of the home of the secretary of the local branch of the Communist 
[Lao Dong] party!) 

These activities are not revealed in the Pentagon Papers, although they con- 
stitute "acts of war" under internationally accepted definitions of the term. 

In a chronology of events (Gravel ed., IIL 1 17), there is reference to a NSAM 
52 (National Security Action Memorandum) of May 11, 1963, authorizing 
"CIA-sponsored covert operations against NVN," and to the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff, on September 3, 1963, having "approved this program for non-attributable 
'hit-and-run' operations against NVN, supported by US military advisory material 
and training assistance." Again on November 23 of the same year there is a 
NSAM 273, authorizing "planning for specific covert operations, graduated in 
intensity, against the DRV." 

There is also a rather wistful admission of failure, in a conversation between 
Secretary McNamara, Maxwell Taylor and General Nguyen Khanh, then in power 
in Saigon, in May 1964. Khanh was pushing for "attacks on the North." Taylor 
"asked how best to attack the North. It had been noted that small-scale operations 
had had no success . . ." (Gravel ed., 111:72) . 

I find no reference in the Pentagon Papers to anyone posing the question as to 
why it was the ill-armed "Vietcong" guerrillas were able to flourish in the South, 
protected by the local population, while the life or liberty of superbly equipped 
agents dropped into the North could usually be counted in hours! 

Finally the Pentagon Papers version of the Tonkin Gulf "incident" (which 
provided President Johnson with his blank check to bomb the North and invade 
the South) has to be compared with the North Vietnamese version. In the section 
"Military Pressures Against North Vietnam, February 1964-January 1965" 
(Gravel ed.. Ill: 106-109) there is reference to "pressure planning" and to 
plans for mounting "overt coercive pressures against the North." US ambassador 
in Saigon, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Johnson's national security adviser Walt 
Rostow are quoted as urging "increased military measures" and it is revealed 
that "during the third quarter of 1964, a consensus developed within the Johnson 
Administration that some form of continual overt pressures mounting in severity 
against North Vietnam would soon be required. . . . 

The Receiving End 11 

"Although it did not take the form of decision, it was agreed that the US 
should at an unspecified date in the future begin an incremental series of grad- 
ually mounting strikes against North Vietnam. The only real questions were 
precisely what actions should be taken and when? . . . 

"The key events in this period were the Tonkin Gulf incidents of August 2nd 
and 4th and the US reprisal on North Vietnam PT boats and bases on August 
5th. The explanation for the DRV attack on US ships remains puzzling. . . . 
The US reprisal represented the carrying out of recommendations made to the 
President by his principal advisers earlier that summer and subsequently placed 
on the shelf. . . ." The report then goes on to describe how President Johnson 
used the incidents to have his blank-check resolution passed almost unanimously 
on August 7, 1964. 

Although this report is rather coy as to the actual background to the Tonkin 
Bay "incident," it is less so as to the Pentagon frame of mind afterwards. It 
would have been more realistic had McNamara's researchers related this frame 
of mind to the "incident" itself. The "limited and fitting response" to use Presi- 
dent Johnson's description of the bombing of North Vietnam's northern coastal 
areas on August 5, 1964, brought the "pressures-against-the-North thinking 
to a head in the strategy meetings of the principals on September 7th," accord- 
ing to the Pentagon Papers' version. "One program proposal came from the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was a repeat of the 94-target list program which the 
JCS had recommended on August 26th. The JCS called for deliberate attempts 
to provoke the DRV into taking acts which could then be answered by a sys- 
tematic US air campaign (My italics. W.B.). The JCS argued that such actions 
were now 'essential to preventing complete collapse of the US position in the 
RVN and SEA,' because 'continuation of present or foreseeable programs lim- 
ited to the RVN will not produce the desired result.' The Chiefs were supported 
by ISA^^ in their provocation approach" (Gravel ed., 111:110). 

The DRV version of the "Gulf of Tonkin incident" makes it quite clear that 
the "provocation approach" was the cause and not a result, of the incident. 

A rough timetable of the background to the "Tonkin Gulf incident" is as 

2 Mar 1964 The Joint Chiefs of Staff outline their proposal for punitive 
action to halt Northern support for the VC insurgency. Bombing is spe- 
cifically called for. [It is worth noting that the proposal to bomb the North 
was linked to the failure of the Saigon regime to implement US policies in 
the South and the resistance of the peasants to the "Strategic Hamlet" 
program. It had the logic of the sort of blind reprisals against hostages that 
the Nazis used in occupied Europe every time one of their gauleiters or 
lesser stars was assassinated. There was a parallel in late December 1971, 
when President Nixon ordered a series of massive air attacks against the 
DRV because of successes of the resistance forces in Laos and Cambodia!] 

14 Mar 1964 The JCS . . . reiterate their views of 2 March that a pro- 
gram of actions against the North is required to effectively strike at the 
sources of the insurgency. 

17 Mar The JCS are authorized to begin planning studies for striking at the 
sources of insurgency in the DRV. 

4 Apr In a letter to [Ambassador] Lodge, Bundyi^ asks him to comment on 
a scenario for mobilizing domestic US political support for action against 
the DRV. 

78 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

17-20 Apr Secretary of State Rusk and party visit Saigon. ... At the 
April 19 meeting with the Country Team, much of the discussion is devoted 
to the problem of pressures against the North. 

15 Jun W. P. Bundy memo to SecState and SecDef. . . . One of the im- 
portant themes is that an act of irreversible US commitment might provide 
the necessary psychological support to get real reform and effectiveness 
from the GVN. (Again the theme that the North is considered hostage for 
reprisals in order to get a more stable government in the South. W.B.) 

19 Jul In a public speech, Khanh [General Nguyen Khanh, the US "strong 
man" at the top in Saigon at that time. W.B.] refers to the "March to the 
North." In a separate statement to the press, General [Nguyen Cao] Ky also 
refers to the "march North" [In more detailed references to these and sub- 
sequent such statements it transpires that the "March to the North" means 
US "reprisal bombings." W.B.]. 

2 Aug The destroyer USS Maddox is attacked in the Tonkin Gulf by DRV 
patrol craft while on a DE SOTO patrol off the DRV coast. Several patrol 
boats sunk.2o 

4 Aug In a repetition of the 2 August incident, the Maddox and the 
C. Turner Joy are attacked. After strenuous efforts to confirm the attacks, 
the President authorizes reprisal air strikes against the North. 

5 Aug US aircraft attack several DRV patrol boat bases, destroying ships 
and facilities. 

7 Aug At the time of the attacks, the President briefed leaders of Congress 
and had a resolution of support for US policy introduced. It is passed with 
near-unanimity by both Houses. 

11 Aug The President signs the Tonkin Gulf Resolution and pledges full 
support for the GVN. 

18 Sep The first resumed DE SOTO patrol comes under apparent attack. 
To avoid future incidents, the President suspends the patrols. [With the 
blank check already in his pocket, Johnson no longer needed the provoca- 
tions of the DE SOTO patrols. W.B.] 

The DRV claims that a series of provocations started on July 30 at 11:40 p.m. 
when US and South Vietnamese warships shelled the North Vietnamese islands 
of Hon Ngu and Hon Me, four and twelve kilometers respectively off the coast 
of Thanh Hoa province. From July 31 to August 2, the destroyer Maddox 
"operated very near the Vietnamese coast in Quang Binh, Ha Tinh, Nghe An and 
Thanh Hoa provinces." 21 

"On August 1, at 11:45 a.m., four T-28s coming from the direction of Laos 
bombed and strafed the Nam Can frontier post — 7 kilometers from the Vietnam- 
Laos border — which was visibly flying the flag of the DRV and also Noong De 
village, about 20 kms from the same border. Both places are situated far inside 
Vietnamese territory and belong to Ky Son district, Nghe An province. . . ." 
The raid against Nam Can was repeated the following day with 7 T-28s and 
AD-6s, also coming from the direction of Laos, according to the foreign ministry 
report, which continues: 

"On August 2, at 3 p.m. [local time], while in Vietnamese waters between 
Hon Me and Lach Truong [Thanh Hoa] the Maddox, encountering patrol boats 

The Receiving End 79 

of the DRV, opened fire at them. Confronted with such brazen provocation, the 
Vietnamese boats had to take defensive action to safeguard national sovereignty 
and territorial v^aters, protect the fishermen, and finally drove the intruder out 
of Vietnamese waters. 

"On August 3, at 11 p.m. [local time], under the cover of the Ticonderoga 
task group stationed in the offing, four warships — two small and two big — in- 
truded into Vietnamese waters, and opened fire with 40 mm guns and 12.7 mm 
machine guns at Ron and Deo Ngang areas [Quang Binh province on the North 
Vietnamese mainland. W.B.]. 

"On August 5, 1964, from 12:30 to 5 p.m. (local time), Skyhawk, Crusader 
and Phantom jets and Skyraider aircraft taking off from the carriers Constella- 
tion and Ticonderoga anchored in the Gulf of Bac Bo (Tonkin Gulf) came in 
many waves to bomb and rocket a number of places along the North Vietnamese 
coast, the vicinity of Hong Gai town, Lach Truong, the vicinity of Ben Thuy — 
Vinh, the mouth of the Gianh River. . . ." The events between July 30 and 
August 2 were also described in a statement issued by a spokesman for the 
High Command of the Vietnam People's Army, on August 4. 

The DRV Memorandum denied as a "farce" the charge that it attacked US 
destroyers on the night of August 4, describing the charge as "an out-and-out 
fabrication," and makes the following points: 

President Johnson said that following the August 2, 1964, "attack" in the 
Gulf of Bac Bo, he ordered the destroyer Turner Joy — then in the Philip- 
pines — to join the Maddox. In fact at 7:30 p.m. on August 2, the Turner 
Joy was already in the Gulf of Bac Bo, east of Deo Ngang. In other words, 
it must have received the relevant instructions prior to "the first attack" on 
the Maddox, 

President Johnson also said that following the "second attack," in the night 
of August 4, 1964, he ordered the aircraft carrier Constellation to sail to 
the Gulf of Bac Bo as reinforcement to the US Navy there. Actually the 
Constellation left Hong Kong in the morning of August 4, 1964. This was 
confirmed by its commander, Captain Frederic A. Bardshar, at his August 
10, 1964 press conference. 22 in the evening of August 4, 1964, i.e., prior 
to the "second attack," the carrier was already in the Gulf of Bac Bo. 

Judging by President Johnson's assertions, it would appear that the de- 
stroyer Maddox was the only US warship in the Gulf of Bac Bo in the 
evening of August 2, As a matter of fact, four destroyers were operating 
at that time along the North Vietnamese coast, namely the Maddox, the 
Turner Joy, the Samuel Moore and the Berkeley. 

In the evening of August 4 and prior to the "second attack," 11 US war- 
ships belonging to the 7th Fleet were already on the spot. Ticonderoga 
task group with the aircraft-carrier Ticonderoga, destroyers Samuel Moore, 
Edison, Harry Hubbard and Berkeley, Constellation task group with the 
aircraft-carrier Constellation, destroyers Preston and Fechteler, and the 
USS Gridley; and finally the two destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy. 

According to President Johnson's August 4, 1964, statement, the air strike 
against North Vietnam was decided following the "second attack" on US 
warships in the Gulf of Bac Bo. 

"But, according to the Reuter correspondent who attended the August 10, 
1964, press conference aboard a ship of the 7th Fleet, the pilot of an A-4 

80 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

jet based on the carrier Constellation — whose name was not given — said 
that the pilots were informed of the attack against North Vietnam back 
in the morning of August 4, that is in the evening of August 3 (Washing- 
ton time). . . . 

The August 5, 1964, air raid was not an isolated action: on the contrary, 
it came in the wake of a series of other US war acts against the DRV. . . ." 

The Memorandum then quotes a DRV government declaration of August 
6, 1964, that: "The air strafing and bombing of August 5, 1964, are obvi- 
ously a premeditated act of war within the US Government's plan for in- 
tensified provocation and sabotage against the Democratic Republic of 
Vietnam ... an extremely serious act of war . . . which constitutes a 
blatant violation of international law and the 1954 Geneva Agreements on 
Indo-China, and adds to the danger of extended war in Indo-China and 
South-East Asia." 

All that has happened since, including the revelations of the Pentagon Papers 
— inadequate as they are in many instances — confirm how completely accurate 
was this immediate evaluation of the "Tonkin incident" by the government of 
the DRV. 

From the August 5 air attacks to operations "Flaming Dart" — a so-called 
"reprisal raid" on Febuary 8, 1965, for a guerrilla attack on a US helicopter 
base as Pleiku, and "Rolling Thunder" — the code name for the systematic 
bombing of North Vietnam, starting March 2, 1965, was but a short step once 
Congress had given Johnson power to do what he liked in Southeast Asia. That 
by this time he was looking for pretexts to put into effect decisions taken months 
earlier, is documented in a Chronology (Gravel ed., III:275ff.) which reveals 
that it was decided on January 28, to resume the provocative DE SOTO patrols 
"on or about 3 February" and that on January 29, the "Joint Chiefs of Staff 
urged again that a strong reprisal action be taken immediately after the next 
DRV/VC provocation. In particular, they propose targets and readiness to strike 
should the forthcoming resumption of the DE SOTO patrols be challenged." 

The DE SOTO patrols were, in fact, called off temporarily because Soviet 
premier Kosygin was due to arrive within a few days in Hanoi. A routine 
guerrilla attack on a US base, however, was used as the pretext to set "Flaming 
Dart" into operation, and five days later Johnson approved "Rolling Thunder." 
Within six days of the start of "Rolling Thunder" the first marines started dis- 
embarking at Danang and the United States was fully committed to a war of 
destruction against the DRV and a war of aggression against the Vietnamese 
people as a whole. 


1. Although my task was to compare certain elements of the Pentagon Papers with 
Vietnamese "communist historical sources dealing with the same period," I have drawn 
on my own on-the-spot experiences for certain aspects which were not covered at the 
time, for reasons of security, by North Vietnamese official documents. This applies es- 
pecially for such matters as the Lansdale sabotage efforts in the period immediately 
after the Geneva Agreements. W.B. 

2. The above and following passages represent the first reaction from Hanoi to the 
publication of the Pentagon Papers. They are from the Introduction to "Les Vrais et les 

The Receiving End 81 

Faux Secrets du Pentagone" (True and False Pentagon Secrets) published in booklet 
form by Le Court ier d Vietnam, Hanoi, 1971. 

3. Crisis Now by James M. Gavin, in collaboration with Arthur T. Hadley Vintage 
Books, May 1968, pp. 46-49. 

4. "Binh" and "Hao" are the code names given by Lansdale in his report for the es- 
pionage-sabotage groups sent into the North. 

5. L'Agonie de I'Indochine by General Henri Navarre, Librairie Plon, Paris, 1956. 

6. "North of the 17th Parallel," Hanoi, Septtmber 1955. 

7. "Official Gazette" of the Republic of Vietnam, No. 5, January 28, 1956. 

8. Quoted by the author in This Furtive War, p. 48. International Publishers, New 
York, 1963. 

9. ICC Note No. IC/FB/3/2/18, Jan. 7, 1958. 

10. Memorandum of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of 
Vietnam, February 1962. 

11. The Furtive War, p. 67, International Publishers, New York, 1963. 

12. William Jorden, formerly of AP and the New York Times, turned up as Harri- 
man's spokesman at the Paris Peace talks in May, 1968. 

13. The Wall Street Journal, on May 24, 1961, reported that General Trudeau had 
worked out a plan for "sabotage and subversion of Eastern Europe and North Vietnam," 
which is the source quoted by the DRV document. 

14. A list of such incidents during 1961-1962, was published by the DRV in July 
1963, but is not in the hands of the author at the time of writing. 

15. Former head of South Vietnam's "Special Forces." He was executed at the time 
of the coup against Diem. 

16. Quoted from the same UPI despatch of Febmary 22, 1964. 

17. ISA: Office of International Security Affairs, Defense Department. 

18. William P. Bundy, then Under Secretary of State for Asian Affairs. 

19. The timetable references are taken verbatim from Gravel ed., 111:8-13. The 
"Country Team" is apparently the top US military, diplomatic, CIA, etc., personnel in 

20. DE SOTO was a code name for destroyer patrols off the coast of North Vietnam, 
which usually took place within the latter's territorial waters, claimed as 12 nautical 

21. This and other quotes are from a "Memorandum regarding the US war acts 
against the DRV in the first days of August 1964," published by the DRV's Ministry 
of Foreign Affairs, September 1964. 

22. The Memorandum cites Renter for this information. 


6. Ideology and Society: The Pentagon Papers 
and North Vietnam 

by Gerard Chaliand 

Concerning the air war over North Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers acknowledge 

In the North, the regime battened down and prepared to ride out the 
storm. With Soviet and Chinese help, it greatly strengthened its air defenses, 
multiplying the number of AAA guns and radars, expanding the number of 
jet fighter airfields and the jet fighter force, and introducing an extensive 
SAM system. Economic development plans were laid aside. Imports were 
increased to offset production losses. Bomber facilities were in most cases 
simply abandoned. The large and vulnerable barracks and storage depots 
were replaced by dispersed and concealed ones. Several hundred thousand 
workers were mobilized to keep the transportation system operating. Miles 
of by-pass roads were built around choke-points to make the system re- 
dundant. Knocked-out bridges were replaced by fords, ferries, or alternate 
structures, and methods were adopted to protect them from attack. Traffic 
shifted to night time, poor weather, and camouflage. Shuttling and trans- 
shipment practices were instituted. Construction material, equipment, and 
workers were prepositioned along key routes in order to effect quick re- 
pairs. Imports of railroad cars and trucks were increased to offset equipment 

In short, NVN leaders mounted a major effort to withstand the bombing 
pressure. They had to change their plans and go on a war footing. They 
had to take drastic measures to shelter the population and cope with the 
bomb damage. They had to force the people to work harder and find new 
ways to keep the economy operating. They had to greatly increase imports 
and their dependence on the USSR and China. There were undoubtedly 
many difficulties and hardships involved. Yet, NVN had survived. Its econ- 
omy had continued to function. The regime had not collapsed, and it had 
not given in. And it still sent men and supplies to SVN (Gravel edition, 

How and why has North Vietnam been able to resist the American bombard- 
ment? Before replying to this question, I would like to summarize the diverse, 
and over the years often-changing, motives which led to the decision to under- 
take an air war against North Vietnam. After having pretended that the escala- 
tion was simply a reaction to the Maddox incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, then 

Translated from the French by Stephen C. Headley 
Copyright © 1972 by Gerard Chaliand 

Ideology and Society 83 

later pretending that it was a reprisal to the attack against the American base at 
Pleiku, the Johnson administration finally affirmed that the escalation was aimed 
at stopping the flow of DRV material and troops to the South. In the context of 
the domino theory, to bomb the North was an effort to show not only the South 
Vietnamese favorable to the Saigon government, but also China and the other 
Southeast Asian states the determination of the United States to bar the road to 

Many other reasons have been found to minimize circumstantially the failure 
of the escalation, but even when this failure is recognized, what is lacking — and 
this is what strikes me about the Pentagon Papers — is a concrete analysis of the 
causes of the failure. One has the impression from beginning to end that their 
analysis remains on the edge of the subject. 

An analysis of the causes of the failure of the bombardment of North Vietnam 
can only rest on the understanding of these two fundamentals: 

1 ) The historical and social conditions which shaped the Vietnamese people. 

2) The ideology which motivates and supports the will and the actions of 
the leaders of North Vietnam, and through the mediation of the party, 
the masses of North Vietnam. 

In reading the Pentagon Papers, as well as the writings of other government 
officials, one ascertained an ignorance of one or the other, if not both, of these 
two fundamentals. 1 One must remember that before dropping the bombs the 
American air force (during the Kennedy administration in 1961) dropped tracts 
to maintain the morale of the North Vietnamese peasants, reassuring them that 
the United States had not forgotten them and that they would be liberated from 
their Communist leaders. 


From the beginning of Vietnamese history, several centuries before our era, 
the fundamental social structure of Vietnam has been the village commune. It 
has endured down to our times without having been assimilated by the long 
Chinese occupation which gave many of its institutions to Vietnam. The state 
exacted tribute and drafted the youth for the army, but the village community, 
through the mediation of its council of notables, fixed the amount of the tax for 
each family and designated the recruits. 

The mandarin, representative of the state, did not penetrate the village pro- 
tected by its high bamboo hedge, described here by Gourou: 

At the same time as it provides protection against dangers, the hedge is 
a kind of sacred boundary to the village community, the sign of its individ- 
uality and independence. If in a period of uprisings, the village has par- 
ticipated in the agitation or given shelter to the rebels, the first punishment 
inflicted on it is to force the village to cut down its bamboo hedge. This 
is a grave wound for its self-respect, a sign of scandal. The village feels as 
embarrassed as a human would who has been stripped and abandoned in 
the middle of a fully dressed crowd.^ 

The cohesion of this rural society stemming from the Vietnamese commune 
resisted ten centuries of Chinese occupation even as it absorbed Chinese culture. 

84 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 

The central authorities were never in direct contact with local individuals, but 
only with the commune, which thus exercised its autonomy. In its attitude to- 
ward the ruling state, as in its attitude toward the natural milieu it sought to 
control, the inhabitants of the commune maintained solidarity. The success or 
the opprobrium of one member of the commune reflected on the totality of the 

The specific factors which constitute the national character of the Vietnamese 
are determined by the village community, its relative autonomy and its particular 
solidarity. The unceasing hydraulic work, necessarily collective and of vital 
importance for the rice fields of the Red River delta, cradle of the Vietnamese 
nation, reinforced this cohesion and this solidarity, and developed the tenacity 
and the capacity for painstaking labor which characterize the Vietnamese peasant. 

Finally, besides the village and the hydraulic questions, a third factor permits 
a better understanding of the Vietnamese personality: its military tradition, both 
of conquest and resistance. From the eleventh to the eighteenth century, stim- 
ulated by the shortage of farmland, a slow but uninterrupted movement advanced 
little by little the network of Vietnamese villages all the way down to the Ca 
Mau peninsula, destroying on its way the Cham and Khmer empires. In the 
interim, the Vietnamese people forged for itself a long tradition of resistance 
against various Chinese dynasties, including the Mongols. This military tradition 
necessarily rested on a highly developed national consciousness. 

These historical and social factors have only been succinctly recalled; a deeper 
understanding of them^ permits one to measure to what point the decentraliza- 
tion, the dispersion, the provincial and village autonomy that the bombings have 
created, coincides with the historical structure of the rural base of Vietnamese 
society. In a situation where many countries would have been disabled, Vietnam 
organized itself effectively. 

None of these factors by themselves are sufficient to explain why one doesn't 
find the same behavior in Hanoi that one finds in Saigon. In the contemporary 
world none of these factors would be sufficient to permit a small, still essentially 
agricultural nation to successfully resist the pressure of a powerful industrial 
country. For example, in the Pentagon Papers one reads: 

The threat implicit in minimum but increasing amounts of force ("slow 
squeeze") would, it was hoped by some, ultimately bring Hanoi to the table 
on terms favorable to the U.S. Underlying this optimistic view was a sig- 
nificant underestimate of the level of the DRV commitment to victory in 
the South, and an overestimate of the effectiveness of U.S. pressures in 
weakening that resolve (Gravel ed., Ill: 1 12). 

One doesn't see where the mistakes in estimations have been made. The rare 
explanations are incapable of embracing the logic of the adversary. They denote 
"occidentocentrism," narrow-mindedness, an incapacity to come to grips with 
the factors and profound motivations of the adversary. Consider the following 
passage : 

The idea that destroying, or threatening to destroy, NVN's industry would 
pressure Hanoi into calling its quits seems, in retrospect, a colossal misjudg- 
ment. The idea was based, however, on a plausible assumption about the 
rationality of NVN's leaders, which the U.S. intelligence community as a 
whole seemed to share. This was that the value of what little industrial plant 
NVN possessed was disproportionately great. That plant was purchased by 

Ideology and Society 85 

an extremely poor nation at the price of considerable sacrifice over many 
years. Even though it did not amount to much, it no doubt symbolized the 
regime's hopes and desires for national status, power, and wealth, and was 
probably a source of considerable pride. It did not seem unreasonable to 
believe that NVN leaders would not wish to risk the destruction of such 
assets, especially when that risk seemed (to us) easily avoidable by cutting 
down the insurgency and deferring the takeover of SVN until another day 
and perhaps in another manner — which Ho Chi Minh had apparendy de- 
cided to do once before, in 1954.* After all, an ample supply of oriental 
patience is precisely what an old oriental revolutionary like Ho Chi Minh 
was supposed to have^ (Gravel ed., IV:57; italics are author's). 

Compared to the above, even the Jason Report, which was highly critical and 
recognized the failure of the bombardments, was able to single out only one 
aspect, certainly important, but by itself insufficient to explain the resistance of 
North Vietnam: nationalism. Compare this passage: 

The bombing campaign against NVN has not discemibly weakened the 
determination of the North Vietnamese leaders to continue to direct and 
support the insurgency in the South. Shortages of food and clothing, travel 
restrictions, separations of families, lack of adequate medical and educa- 
tional facilities, and heavy work loads have tended to affect adversely civilian 
morale. However, there are few if any reliable reports on a breakdown of 
the commitment of the people to support the war. Unlike the situation in 
the South, there are no reports of marked increases of absenteeism, draft 
dodging, black market operations or prostitution. There is no evidence that 
possible war weariness among the people has shaken the leadership's belief 
that they can continue to endure the bombing and outlast the U.S. and 
SVN in a protracted war of attrition. . . . 

The expectation that bombing would erode the determination of Hanoi 
and its people clearly overestimated the persuasion and disruptive effects of 
the bombing and, correspondingly, underestimated the tenacity and recupera- 
tive capabilities of the North Vietnamese. That the bombing has not achieved 
anticipated goals reflects a general failure to appreciate the fact, well-docu- 
mented in the historical and social scientific literature, that a direct, frontal 
attack on a society tends to strengthen the social fabric of the nation, to 
increase popular support of the existing government, to improve the de- 
termination of both the leadership and the populace to fight back, to induce 
a variety of protective measures that reduces the society's vulnerability to 
future attack and to develop an increased capacity for quick repairs and 
restoration of essential functions. The great variety of physical and social 
countermeasures that North Vietnam has taken in response to the bombing 
is now well documented, but the potential effectiveness of these counter- 
measures has not been adequately considered in previous planning or assess- 
ment studies (Gravel ed., IV: 224). 


It is not simple to explain the role of ideology, especially if one begins with 
the prejudice that your yourself, and consequently the society to which you be- 
long, think rationally, whereas the adversary alone is "ideologized." This pro- 

86 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 

cedure is more common in the United States than in other Western countries, 
especially since the Cold War began. American society, despite the changes which 
occurred in it during the 1960s, is, without clearly realizing it, a profoundly 
ideologized society in several ways, among them anticommunism. After the war 
and in the 1950s, there has not been, for example, a political thinker of the 
power and clairvoyance of Raymond Aron,^ capable of combating the Com- 
munists using Marxism itself, knowing how to choose between what Maxime 
Rodinson judiciously calls "Marxist sociology" and "Marxist ideology." Thus 
in general, the American government's approach to the political realities of North 
Vietnam is vitiated by ideological a priori assumptions which obscure the assess- 
ments made of the enemy. This is essentially what is reflected in the Pentagon 

"Anti-Communist ideology," conscious or unconscious, fed by ignorance of 
the enemy's ideology (i.e., the tool which motivates his behavior and his actions) 
explains, I feel, how the U.S. experts and decisionmakers failed to understand 
the capacities of the enemy. To fail to understand the logic of the enemy does 
not prove his irrationality, but rather the limits of one's own system of thought. 

A serious study of revolutionary phenomena must not underestimate the role 
of ideology. In Vietnam not only did the ideology disseminated by the cadres of 
the Viet Minh permit them to forge the means to victoriously end colonialism at 
Dien Bien Phu, thus bringing a solution to the crisis of Vietnamese society as 
a whole; but also, in the North, it permitted them to reinforce that national inde- 
pendence and to lay the basis for the construction of a modern industry. 

On the one hand, there is national independence, and it should be remembered 
that Vietnam is one. There are few nations in Asia or elsewhere as homogeneous. 
Moreover, this independence is also maintained vis a vis the USSR and China. 

On the other hand there is the effort to modernize the country through eco- 
nomic construction. This transformation aims at modifying the condition of the 
whole population and not at favoring exclusively one social class as is the case 
in most Third World countries. To hasten this transformation, the ideology dis- 
seminated among the masses by the cadres relying on the notions of national 
dignity and social justice, tends to change the traditional relationships between 
time and work by rationalizing them, i.e., by stressing efficiency. By a constant 
pressure,^ which should not be characterized as violent coercion, for North Viet- 
nam is not the USSR of Stalin's era, the cadres push the peasants to modify 
their traditional behavior. This effort, which is not directed simply at the propen- 
sity toward small family property, is necessary in order to make up for the 
historical delay which currently characterizes the so-called developing countries. 
This mobilizing ideology can obviously only get results, in any given phase, if 
the reality experienced by the masses shows no noticeable discrepancy with the 
reflections of it to be found in the reformers' slogans. The failure of numerous 
socialist experiments is explained by just such discrepancies. It is because the 
ideology is shared, to different degrees, by the masses, that it becomes possible 
to accomplish that which the traditional society of the past, stagnant, disrupted 
and submissive, did not seem capable of in its own eyes, as well as in the eyes of 
Western observers. 

In North Vietnam, the ideology communicated by the party is deeply rooted 
in nationalism on the one hand and in Marxism-Leninism on the other. This 
means that the emphasis is placed on political and economic independence, class 
struggle, management in the hands of the controlling bureaucracy, the necessity 
for construction and modernization, and a more equitable distribution of wealth. 

On the other hand it is important to note that since the twenties, and especially 

Ideology and Society 87 

since the thirties, the Vietnamese Communist party, which was to become the 
Viet Minh, was the only party to take responsibility, not only for the aspirations 
for social justice, but also and above all, for the national independence move- 
ment. When the French eliminated in 1930 the "Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang" 
(modeled after the Chinese Kuomintang) following their having organized a 
military uprising, the only other surviving Vietnamese party capable of directing 
the national movement was the Communists. It was these leaders and the middle- 
level cadres of the party who crystallized the idea of a revolution against the 
humiliation caused by the colonial oppression, and who patiently forced the 
means to end it. 

The Geneva Accords were, in the eyes of the Vietnamese leaders, only a 
temporary compromise imposed as much by Soviet pressure as by circumstance. 
The legitimate objective of eventual reunification of Vietnam was never aban- 
doned. Thus to underestimate, as the authors of the Pentagon Papers generally 
have, the nationalism of the leaders of North Vietnam shows as much ignorance 
of their history as it does of their motivations. 

Thus, if the social distance between the party cadres was not very accentuated, 
and it never has been in Vietnam, and if the accomplishments which the masses 
can measure in their daily lives can be added to the regime's dynamism, then 
the morality which the party spreads, composed of discipline, civic spirit, austerity 
— in sum the puritanism of primitive accumulation — tends to give the society a 
cohesion and a capacity for resistance which the experts of the Pentagon Papers 
incorrectly attribute to nationalism alone. Certainly the bombardments reinforced 
the popularity of the Hanoi regime, but there can be strong national feeling with- 
out its providing the material and moral means to face the enemy. 

Even with an exacerbated nationalism, the Saigon regime, if it had undergone 
the same bombardments as the North (even supposing that the NLF no longer 
existed), could not have held out. Without mentioning the problems of infra- 
structure, the Saigon regime lacks the social cohesion and the accomplishments 
which make it worthwhile for the people to sacrifice themselves in its defense. 
This is all the more true as the traditional social structure of Vietnam has nothing 
whatsoever to do with the ideology of free enterprise. 

On the one hand North Vietnam was able to resist the bombing because the 
regime had demonstrated in 1964-1965 that it could materially improve the 
daily life of the North Vietnamese peasants. On the other hand, the regime even 
before it proceeded with the dispersion (decentralization) necessary to parry the 
bombing, had managed to create at the village, district, and provincial level an 
infrastructure unequaled in Asia (with the exception of China, North Korea, and 
naturally Japan). This resistance cannot be explained without an appreciation 
of the transformations which the regime was able to institute, especially in the 
countryside. Certainly important errors were committed during the agricultural 
reform of 1954-1956. Inspired in a mechanical way by the Chinese model, the 
Vietnamese agricultural reform was tainted by "leftism." In all the villages a 
certain percentage of the landlords were sought out; well-to-do and even middle 
peasants were equally dispossessed of their lands. Even patriotic landowners were 
treated as collaborators of the colonial administration. It is true that these errors 
were facilitated by the structure of Vietnamese landholdings where there were 
very few large landowners and no public land register. Land was scarce (three 
times less land per inhabitant than in India). Those who employed hired hands 
were considered landlords, even if they only owned seven and a half acres. Gen- 
erally divided into plots, these paddy fields were distributed by the landowners 
among the members of their families. The first land reform, due to its Stalinist 

88 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

techniques, provoked in 1956 an upHsing in the province of Nghe An which 
was repressed by the army. But unlike the Soviet Union under Stalin, collectiviza- 
tion and agricultural questions were not solved from beginning to end against the 
wishes of the peasant. In 1957, at least those errors which could be repaired were 
publicly rectified by the personal intervention of Ho Chi Minh, and those 
responsible all the way up to the top, including the general secretary of the party, 
Truong Chinh, were given other jobs. Meanwhile, the cultivated areas had been 
augmented by a fourth in comparison to 1 939, the total production by 68 percent, 
and the individual consumption by 13 percent. 

So after these difficulties, it was only very prudently, solely with volunteers, 
that the cooperatives were instituted in 1959. These were only generalized three 
years later when the state and the party could prove to the peasants that it 
was more profitable to belong to a cooperative than to remain an individual 
farmer. Increasing the number of hydraulic works permitted the cooperatives 
from one, to two, or even three harvests a year. Improving agricultural tools and 
techniques, limiting the free market where small landholders placed a part of 
their production, and increasing the amount of agricultural produce by about 
4 percent were some of the proofs given the farmers. 

The regime did not try to destroy the village structure, its cohesion or its 
solidarity. The commune served as the immediate point of departure for the 
cooperative. The notables were eliminated as a class, the landlords were dis- 
possessed, but the members of the Party who directed the cooperatives all came 
from the village, and were not sent in from Hanoi or elsewhere. The economic 
improvements which the large majority of Vietnamese peasants experienced on 
the eve of the bombing, are indisputable: the per hectare (2.4 acres) output had 
reached four tons; and with the wells, the septic tanks, the threshing floors, etc., 
daily life itself had changed. The peasants were very far away from the years 
1945-1946, when 2 million farmers died of starvation. 

From 1954-1964, an educational and sanitary infrastructure was created 
which was widely dispersed throughout the countryside. In fact North Vietnam 
did not hold out because it was an agricultural country without great needs, as 
some experts have pretended. It held out because it had a modern, if modest, 
infrastructure at the level of the village and the district. Each village had a 
sanitary station, each district had several hospitals equipped with qualified per- 
sonnel, each province had its hospital with specialized personnel and equipment. 
The bombing only further strengthened this infrastructure in order to respond to 
the problems which the air war posed: aid no matter where, no matter when. 
Corresponding to the medical infrastructure was the network of schools which 
had been extended to all the villages before the bombing began. All children 
from seven to ten years old followed the first course-cycle. The second and third 
cycles were dispensed at the district and province level. The air war does not 
seem to have noticeably slowed down educational activities in North Vietnam. 
In fact it was their medical and educational infrastructures that enabled the 
regime to create the conditions for resistance among the North Vietnamese 

Relying on these accomplishments, the North Vietnamese regime, facing the 
bombing, was thus able to implement and carry out the following three actions: 

— facing aerial aggression, it capitalized on Vietnamese nationalism 
— it mobilized the masses around the accomplishments from which they had 
benefited, and which were the immediate foundation of the regime and 
its ideology. By so doing, the regime underlined the fact that any sub- 

Ideology and Society 89 

mission to American pressures could only lead to a deterioration of these 
accomplishments, including the level of daily life 
— in order to further strengthen this mobilization, the regime democratized 
to a certain extent the political structures; this encouraged the emergence 
of new cadres at all levels and thus reinforced the Party. 

This third point is worth expanding, for it shows the vitality of the regime and 
its ability to adapt. Because of the bombing, North Vietnam, through the media- 
tion of the Party, encouraged the youth, boys and girls, to occupy a more im- 
portant place in Vietnamese society, namely by taking responsibilities in the 
militia and the cooperatives, as well as in the Party itself. Because of the decen- 
tralization instigated by the bombardments, beginning in April 1967, local plan- 
ning was elaborated with much more real participation on the part of the mem- 
bers of the cooperatives. They could control the distribution of manufactured 
objects coming from the towns, check the accountants' books, elect their repre- 
sentatives to the Popular Council (where the proportion of Party members was 
not to exceed 40 percent). In 1967 a campaign was launched to eliminate the 
excessively bureaucratic cadres, the dishonest and the lazy, in order to promote 
a more democratic management. Currently every official is required to appear 
once a month to hear possible criticisms by the members of the cooperative. 
Since the institution of these democratic improvements in income distribution, 
the one-hectare plots previously reserved for the Administrative Committees 
have been abolished. 

In this brief sketch, I hope I have been able to demonstrate to what extent a 
certain number of prejudices account for the misunderstandings of numerous 
American experts: systematic anticommunism; the conviction that they alone pos- 
sess "rational" thought applicable to any situation; the consequent impossibility of 
understanding the adversary's motivations; the temptation to explain different, 
even if coherent, behavior by racial or religious reasons; the underestimation 
of the enemy due to an underestimation of his ideology. 

As far as North Vietnam is concerned, such are, I believe, the roots of the 
failure of America's politics. 


1. Townsend Hoopes (Undersecretary of the Air Force) in his book The Limits of 
Intervention (David McKay and Co., New York, 1969): "We believe the enemy can 
be forced to be 'reasonable,' i.e., to compromise or even capitulate, because we assume 
he wants to avoid pain, death and material destruction. We assume that if these are 
inflicted on him with increasing severity, then at some point in the process he will want 
to stop the suffering. Ours is a plausible strategy — for those who are rich, who love life 
and fear pain. But happiness, wealth and power are expectations that constitute a di- 
mension far beyond the experience, and probably beyond the emotional comprehension 
of the Asian poor. For them there may be little difference between the condition of 
death and the condition of unrelieved suffering in life. Indeed the Buddhist belief in 
reincarnation tends to create a positive impetus toward honorable death, because the 
faithful discharge of moral and civic duties in this life are the understood passports to a 
higher station, greater comfort, and less suffering when one next returns to earth. And 
it is through such a series of trials on earth that the soul makes its slow and painful 
advance toward eventual unity with God. The strategy of the weak is therefore the 
natural choice of ideologues in Asia, for it converts Asia's capacity for endurance in 

90 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

suffering into an instrument for exploiting a basic vulnerability of the Christian West. It 
does it, in effect, by inviting the West, which possesses unanswerable military power, to 
carry its strategic logic to the final conclusion, which is genocide . . ." pp. 128-129. 

2. Pierre Gourou, Les paysans du Delta Tonkinois (Paris, 1936; second edition, 
Paris-The Hague, 1965). 

3. It is surprising that a country embroiled directly or indirectly in a war since the 
end of the 1950s has not found it useful to translate the basic literature in French on 
Vietnam. For example: Pierre Gourou's fundamental book on the peasants of the Ton- 
kin delta cited above (pirated and badly translated in the Human Relations Area Files); 
Paul Mus's Vietnam, sociologie d'une guerre appeared abridged in English only in 1970; 
basic works like Charles Robequain's L'Evolution economique de I'lndochine frangaise 
(Paris, 1939; English edition, London, Oxford Univ. Press, 1944) and his province 
study, Le Thanh Hoa, remain unknown and/or untranslated, not to mention the more 
recent economic studies such as: Doan Trong Truyen and Pham Thanh Vinh, L' Edifi- 
cation d'une economie nationale independente au Vietnam (Editions en Langues Etrans- 
geres, Hanoi, 1967); Le Chau, Le Vietnam socialiste (Maspero, Paris, 1966); Vo Nhan 
Tri, Croissance economique de la Republique Democratique du Vietnam, 1945-1965 
(Editions en Langues Etrangeres, Hanoi, 1967); Leon Lavallee, Fran^oise Direr and 
Edith Bouche, L' Economie du Nord Vietnam, 1960-1970 (Cahiers du C.E.R.M. #94 
and #94 bis, Paris, 1971). 

4. Correct; under pressure from the USSR. But the conditions in what had been the 
"Socialist camp" have since changed. 

5. Another quality attributed to Ho Chi Minh is to have known how to choose and 
exploit the "favorable moment." 

6. Raymond Aron, Peace & War (Praeger, New York, 1967). 

7. Maxime Rodinson, "Sociologie marxiste et ideologic marxiste," Diogene (#64, 
Oct.-Dec. 1968), pp. 70-104. 

8. This does not infer a kind of police coercion, but rather a social pressure grounded 
in the traditions of the rural communities where the individual holds a very secondary 
place compared with the collective interests. 


7. "Tell Your Friends that We're People" 
by Don Luce 

The human consequences of American policy toward Vietnam have not been 
considered by U.S. policymakers. The private memos, official statements and 
policy speeches leave out the Vietnamese refugees, children, farmers and slum 
dwellers . . . and the American GI. They are all missing in the Pentagon 

I remember trying to discuss the breakdown of the family structure with Am- 
bassador Bunker in 1967. "Do they [the refugees] need more Bulgar wheat and 
cooking oil?" he kept asking me. He could not understand, or he did not want 
to understand, that the Vietnamese did not want, or need, American relief. They 
wanted to see the end to the defoliation and bombing so that they could return 
to their farms. 

In May 1971, I was ordered to leave Vietnam for "special reasons." I had 
taken two American Congressmen to the Tiger Cages of Con Son. Before leaving, 
I asked the Vietnamese with whom I worked to tell me what they would like me 
to say to my American friends. 

"Tell your friends that we're people," they said. "We're not slants, slopes, gooks 
or dinks. We're people!" 

The Vietnamese feel that they have been presented by U.S. government of- 
ficials and the news media for so long as statistics and kill ratios that Americans 
have forgotten that they are people with many of the same aspirations, dreams 
and fears that we have. To many Americans, the Vietnamese have become the 

How has this happened? In reading the Pentagon Papers I was struck by the 
fact that none of the writers of the different documents could speak, read, or 
write Vietnamese. We have never had an ambassador in Vietnam who could say 
"hello" in Vietnamese. Our decisionmakers have all had to depend on interpreters 
or the elite class of Vietnamese who speak English for their understanding of 
that country. The result has been that our officials have learned how the farm 
people and workers feel from the educated English-speaking community — some- 
thing like learning about the farmers in Iowa and Nebraska from Harvard pro- 
fessors or about New York City dock workers from Smith College co-eds. 

The Vietnamese language is hard to learn. It is tonal and, unlike most European 
languages, has no similarity to English. (When Secretary of Defense Robert 
McNamara once tried to shout in Vietnamese "Long Live Vietnam" to a group 
of Saigonese, he got the tones mixed up. Raising his arms high in a victory ges- 
ture, he shouted: "The Southern Duck Wants to Lie Down.") 

We have lost more than 50,000 American lives and $150 billion of our na- 

Copyright © 1972 by Don Luce 

92 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

tional wealth there. Yet a few months of language study has never been required 
from our decisionmakers. 

Often the Vietnamese see things differently than U.S. officials. For example: 
— An NLF soldier enters a village, shoots at a U.S. spotter plane, and then 
runs away. The pilot of the plane sends a message to headquarters and the 
village is bombed or bombarded. I have discussed this with U.S. army officers. 
They know the NLF soldiers usually leave the village immediately after shooting 
at the plane, but, one explained, the village is bombed so that "someday the 
villagers will learn if they allow Viet Cong in their village they're going to get 

The villagers look at it differently. They were bombed by airplanes, they say, 
and only the Americans have airplanes. Therefore, as long as the Americans are 
there, they'll be bombed. The solution, as it appears to them, is to join the NLF. 

— In the Ba Long An Peninsula of Quang Ngai province and other areas where 
the machine-gunning of farm people by U.S. planes has been most prevalent, the 
farmers have learned to stand still and point their heads at the airplanes so they 
will make a smaller target as the planes look down on them. 

"We used to lie down," they explain. "But now we stand there and point our 
heads at the planes. Fewer people are killed that way." 

American pilots explain that they could still hit the farmers, but the fact that 
they just stand there indicates that they have nothing to hide — they're not Viet 

Ironically, the farmers have learned this "trick" from the NLF cadre. 

Often the villagers are warned before the bombardment. U.S. government 
officials carefully explain to visitors how much care is taken to prevent innocent 
civilian casualties. 

One method described as "surprisingly successful" by the U.S. Air Force is 
the "I told you so" approach. Super Skymaster planes drop leaflets or use air- 
recorded tapes from powerful loudspeakers over suspected NLF areas telling 
everyone to Chieu Hoi, or come to the side of the Saigon government. A 1971 
press release (#4016) by the Directorate of Information, Headquarters Seventh 
Air Force described the purpose of the psyops (psychological operations) leaflets 
this way: 

The message also contains a warning. A warning of attacks by planes and 
artillery. As the psyops aircraft moves away U.S. Air Force, Republic of 
Vietnam Air Force, or Royal Australian Air Force fighter bombers blanket 
the area with a barrage of firepower. Before the smoke clears the psyops 
pilot returns with another tape message, promising more of the same to the 
survivors who do not rally. "This is why we call it the 'I told you so' ap- 
proach," Lieutenant Loss said. 

In Quang Ngai province of Central Vietnam, the Americal Division has used 
tape recordings from an airplane to warn the villagers. A plane flies over the vil- 
lage a ten- or twenty-second tape tells the villagers to leave immediately. Tape 
number T7-21A-70, used in 1971, announces: 

Attention citizens: You must leave this area immediately. There will be 
artillery and air strikes tomorrow morning. Evacuate to the east to avoid an 
accident. There will be artillery and airstrikes tomorrow morning. Evacuate 
to the east. 

"Tell Your Friends that We're People" 93 

If there are NLF in the village, they pick up their guns and leave. Or, as 
some of the refugees say, the NLF soldiers stay and help the people to pack — 
perhaps discussing the cruelty of the Americans in making them move! 

The villagers gather together their buffalo, pigs, chickens, rice and children. 
Then the grandparents refuse to leave. 

"We've lived here for seventy years," the old people say. "Our parents lived 
here and are buried here. We will not leave the graves of the ancestors." 

And the only way that the family can get the grandparents to leave is to tell 
them that if they don't the grandchildren will be killed. 

The family leaves the coconut trees, the rice fields and the graves of the an- 
cestors — all those things that have held the family together and been meaningful. 
The rice-planting songs and the evening stories told by Grandfather about days 
gone by are replaced by the thud of bombs. The people are crowded into the 
city slums and around the air bases. Their houses, if they have any, are built of 
cardboard, U.S. government cement and tin, or artillery-shell packing boxes. The 
bewildered, apathetic people sit in front of these dwellings staring at the ground. 
The six-cent-a-day refugee payments are held up by bureaucracy, or never come 
at all. 

But the Vietnamese are a resilient people. They survive. 

The men who once plowed the acre or two of riceland join one army or the 

The women try to sing the old rice-planting songs as they wash the khaki uni- 
forms of foreign soldiers. In the evenings they no longer shell beans or preserve 
the food for the dry season as their children crowd around the grandparents, who 
tell stories of when they were boys and girls. Now they worry about their hus- 
bands and when, or if, their children will return from shining shoes. 

The seventeen- and eighteen-year-old girls who once helped their mothers plant 
rice and preserve food receive visits in the refugee camps by madames who offer 
them lots of money to work in the bars and brothels. The family needs money, 
so they go and, if they are lucky, they become temporary wives for soldiers. They 
are paid well — often in Salem cigarettes, Tide soap, and perhaps even a T.V. set. 
When their soldier goes back to the United States, they are passed on to his 
buddy or they go back to the bar to find another husband. They have children. 
They want children because they cannot imagine their soldier leaving them if 
they have a child. Children, they feel, are the most precious possession that a 
man can have. 

Between 100,000 and 200,000 Amer-Asian children have been born in Viet- 
nam. The French, during their war, provided health care for the mothers and 
educational benefits for the children. Today, the French/Vietnamese are among 
the best educated in the country. They are teachers, lawyers and other profes- 
sional people. The U.S. government has ignored the existence of the Amer-Asian 
children — they might add fuel to the peace movement in the United States. Viet- 
namese women who have caught VD from U.S. soldiers must find their own 
source of penicillin (often outdated and watered-down penicillin from quack 
doctors). No provisions have been made for the education of the Amer-Asian 
children in Vietnam. "They should be treated like any other children," is the 
position of U.S. officials. This ignores the extra problems that they and their 
mothers face. 

The refugee children who once tended the buffalo and caught fish and shrimp 
in the canals and rice fields now shine shoes, watch and wash cars, sell peanuts, 
pimp, steal, and push drugs. Once, in the late afternoon when Dad and the 

94 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

buffalo were tired, they learned to plow. Now their education is learning to 
exist in the jungle of the city slums. Each day in the late afternoon, they can be 
seen beginning their rounds of the bars and brothels, pushing their wares and 
changing money. 

Six-year-old boys make more money than their parents and the smallest boys 
make the most money because they are the cutest and the soldiers pay them 
more. The children run away from home and sleep on the streets. Often they 
are picked up by a corrupt policeman. If they can pay the 100-piaster bribe 
(25 cents), they are released. If they can't, they are sent to jail for vagrancy. 
Each day in the Vietnamese newspapers, you can see ads with a picture of a 
little boy or girl: 

Lost child: Our child, Tran Van Be, age seven, ran away from home last 
year. Please help us to find him. 

Between 5 and 6 million Vietnamese people have been moved from their 
farm homes into the city slums and refugee camps. Most of these people have 
been forced off their land by Allied firepower. In 1958, less than a million people 
lived in Saigon; ten years later, its population had tripled to 3 million. Saigon 
became the world's most densely populated city with twice the population density 
of Tokyo, its nearest rival. With the crowding came disease. The U.S. troops 
brought their goods in tin cans, the rat population increased, and now there is 
the danger of bubonic plague. Tuberculosis and dysentery are rampant. 

There are more Vietnamese doctors in France than in Vietnam. The few doc- 
tors that are in Vietnam are usually in the army or treating the very rich. Amer- 
ican, British, German, Philippine, and other medical programs have given vac- 
cines and dedicated service. Without them, epidemics would have caused even 
more havoc. These medical people have worked very hard — there are not only 
the sick, but, especially, the war-wounded (most of them victims of the U.S. 
bombardments). Patients are crowded two or three to a bed. Sometimes medicines 
have been cut off. Dr. Eric Wulff, a German doctor working at the Hue hospital, 
explained in late 1966 that all the penicillin and sulfa drugs had been cut off 
to that hospital as a punishment to the Buddhists for their part in the anti-Saigon 
government Struggle Movement. 

Our officials have occasionally voiced concern about the "other war." In mid- 
1965, General Maxwell Taylor, the American ambassador, expressed the fear 
that the NLF might "swamp the agencies of the Vietnamese government en- 
gaged in the care and handling of refugees." While this has never happened — 
the villagers are the families and neighbors of the NLF — Allied firepower has 
driven them in. In Binh Dinh province, thousands of refugees were generated by 
a Search And Destroy (SAD) mission in 1966. A team from the Ministry of 
Social Welfare in Saigon went to Binh Dinh and reported back: 

The number of refugees increases day by day. Social Welfare Service can't 
control because of the lack of personnel. This number will be increased and 
also belongs to the operations settled by us and the Allied armies in order 
to seize the land. For example, in Bong Son the Operation Than Phong II 
created about 5,000 people who took refuge in the city. These people have 
not received anything as of a week ago. The refugee settlements of the 
district can't contain all of them, for that they have to stay under the porch 
roofs of the school. Many families go to beg, because they miss all things. ^ 

' Tell Your Friends that We're People" 95 

In 1966, Robert Komer expressed his ambivalence in one of his famous 
"Komergrams" from Washington to Deputy Ambassador Porter in Saigon: 

We here deeply concerned by growing number of refugees. Latest reports 
indicate that as of 31 August, a total of 1,361,288 had been processed . . . 
Of course, in some ways, increased flow of refugees is a plus. It helps de- 
prive VC of recruiting potential and rice growers, and is partly indicative of 
growing peasant desire seek security on our side. 

Question arises, however, of whether we and GVN adequately set up to 
deal with increased refugee flow of this magnitude (Gravel edition, 11:569). 

But Robert Komer believed in numbers and in mass brute force. Later, he 

Wastefully, expensively, but nonetheless indisputably, we are winning the 
war in the South. Few of our programs — civil or military — are very efficient, 
but we are grinding the enemy down by sheer weight and mass . . . (Gravel 
ed., 11:575). 

The United States has made more "Viet Cong" than it has killed. When a 
farmer's tomatoes or papaya are defoliated, that farmer becomes more sym- 
pathetic to the NLF. When families are forced to leave their homes and the 
burial grounds of their ancestors, they hate the people who move them. The 
lack of understanding of the Vietnamese and the disregard for Vietnamese life 
expressed throughout the Pentagon Papers has been militarily self-defeating. 

For example, the United States forced the farm people into the refugee camps 
in order to deprive the NLF of food, intelligence and personnel. But by placing 
so many people sympathetic to the NLF right in the middle of city slums, the 
NLF had a base of operations during the 1968 Tet offensive. Guns and ammuni- 
tion were brought into Saigon prior to the Tet offensive in mock funerals. The 
"coffins" were buried in the cemeteries, where the refugees had been forced to 
build their shacks because of lack of any other space. The NLF soldiers moved 
in with friends, relatives and sympathizers just prior to Tet. And while the chil- 
dren lit firecrackers, the men test-fired their rifles. When the offensive began, 
there were plenty of refugees to show them the police stations and act as guides 
through the alleyways that form the jungles of Saigon. 

The NLF made a misjudgment too. In their offensive, they did not expect that 
the Allies would bomb the Allied cities. "We just did not expect that the United 
States would bomb Saigon, Hue and the other cities," I was told by one NLF 
official. The U.S. major who said about Ben Tre, "It became necessary to destroy 
the town to save it," was describing in a very real sense what has happened to 
all. of Vietnam. To the military, there was no other alternative. 

When the refugees came into the cities, they were paid well to wash the khaki 
uniforms, serve the meals, sleep with the soldiers, make souvenirs, build the air- 
ports and roads, and shine the big, black shoes. The mamasans, papasans, hootch- 
maids, and all the others smoldered in anger — but they were paid well. Some be- 
came agents for the NLF and some left for the jungle to join NFL units. But 
mostly, they just existed. As Vietnamization came along, existing became harder. 

Take Mr. Vinh, for example. In 1966, his wife and two children moved to 
Tam Ky, near Chu Lai Air Base, after one of his children was wounded by 
napalm. Two years later, he and the other three children followed when it be- 
came impossible to farm their land because of the military action. In the hills, 

96 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

Mr. Vinh had ten acres of land, two buffalo, several pigs, some chickens, a fruit 
orchard, and plenty of rice paddy land. Now he makes bamboo mugs to sell 
as souvenirs to the soldiers at Chu Lai. But now there are fewer soldiers and Mr. 
Vinh cannot sell all of the bamboo mugs that he makes. Security is no better in 
the hills of Quang Tin province and he cannot return to his farm. 

There is not a single decisionmaker in Vietnam who can talk directly with 
Mr. Vinh and the millions of poor people like him. So the information is second- 
hand. The Pentagon and State Department officials have been concerned with 
the relationships among the Vietnamese generals and politicians and how to 
bring a coup against Ngo Dinh Diem. But seldom, if ever, have they been con- 
cerned about the people. Nowhere is this brought out as clearly as in the Pentagon 

There is a street in Saigon called Cong Ly, which means Justice in English. It 
so happens that Cong Ly is a one-way street. So the Vietnamese have a saying: 
"Justice in Vietnam is a one-way street." 

About five years ago, Vu Thi Dung was brought to the United States to study 
about democracy in an American high school. She was an excellent student and 
graduated from high school here and went back to Vietnam and went to the 
university. When the one-man presidential elections were held in October 1971, 
Miss Dung protested these. One-man elections, she said, are what dictators have 
— not democracy. She was arrested, interrogated, and finally signed a "confes- 
sion" saying that she had participated in and encouraged other students to par- 
ticipate in demonstrations against the elections. 

There is something ironic about sending a young girl to this country to study 
democracy, then sending her back to Vietnam and paying the police who arrested 
and interrogated her for protesting the one-man elections. 

There are 100,000 political prisoners in the Vietnamese jails. These include 
Truong Dinh Dzu, the runner-up in the 1967 presidential elections, Tran Ngoc 
Chau, the National Assemblyman who received the largest majority of votes in 
the 1967 Assembly race, and at least four newspaper editors. But mostly they 
are peasant farm people caught in the middle or politically resisting the Saigon 
government — though not joining the NLF with weapons. 

As the urban unrest grew, the United States responded with more and more 
aid to the police. In 1963, the Vietnamese police force was 16,000. By 1971, it 
had reached 113,000. The United States has built the Interrogation Centers, 
provided the tear gas, and supplied increasing quantities of sophisticated equip- 
ment to the police. In April 1970, eleven students were released from Chi Hoa 
prison. They had slivers under their fingernails, small burns caused by their 
interrogators extinguishing cigarettes in sensitive parts of the body, and black- 
and-blue welts all over their bodies. A group of American volunteers who had 
seen the students were concerned about the use of American money and equip- 
ment in the torture of the students. They went to Ambassador Bunker's office to 
set up an appointment. They were told that Ambassador Bunker could not see 
them and were sent to Deputy Ambassador Berger's office. His office said that the 
deputy ambassador could not see them and sent them on to Youth Affairs, which 
sent them to the U.S. AID Public Safety Director. He would not talk to the group 
and sent them on to the American who advised the Vietnamese prison system. He 
told them that their problem was at too high a level for him and that they should 
see Ambassador Bunker. 

The Saigon government has used an increasing amount of repression to con- 
trol the growing urban unrest. Two laws which the Saigon government has used 
most frequently are: 

"Tell Your Friends that We're People" 97 

Article 2 of Decree Law Number 93/SL/CT of 1964, which states: "Shall be 
considered as pro-Communist neutralist a person who commits acts of propa- 
ganda for and incitement of Neutralism; these acts are assimilated to acts of 
jeopardizing public security." 

Article 19 of Decree Law Number 004/66 of 1966, which states: "Those 
persons considered dangerous to the national defense and public security may be 
[without trial] interned in a prison or banished from designated areas for a 
maximum period of two years, which is renewable. . . ." 

The U.S. government has encouraged the use of the police against all political 
opposition. In the 1970 Annual Report from the Director of the United States 
Agency for International Development in Vietnam to Ambassador Bunker, the 
role of the police is described : 

During 1970 the police continued to improve their capability in traditional 
police functions. Their timely and positive action effectively contained civil 
disturbances involving war veterans, students and religious groups, thereby 
preventing the spread of violence. 

Assistance to the police and prisons has steadily increased. In February 1970, 
$20.9 million was spent on the police and prisons; thirty million dollars was 
budgeted for February 1971. (As a comparison, aid to public health went from 
$27.8 million down to $25 million and aid to education went from $6.1 million 
down to $4.5 milHon in the same period. )2 

After the discovery of the Tiger Cages at Con Son prison island and the 
subsequent international press coverage, the Saigon government held a press 
conference announcing that it was doing away with the Tiger Cages. Two months 
later, they ordered the political prisoners on the island to build new ones as a 
"self-help project." The prisoners refused to build their own Tiger Cages and 
were put back into shackles. On January 7, 1971, the Department of the Navy 
gave a $400,000 contract to Raymond, Morrison, Knutson-Brown, Root, and 
Jones to build an "isolation compound" to replace the Tiger Cages. The new 
cells are six feet by eight feet, or two square feet smaller than the former five by 
ten foot Tiger Cages. There were 120 Tiger Cages built by the French; now 
there are 386 "isolation cells" built by the United States. 

The Vietnamese have protested the building of "new Tiger Cages" by the U.S. 
government. On February 25, 1971, for example. Con Ong (The Bee) printed a 
full-page cartoon of President Nixon unloading a new Tiger Cage for the Viet- 
namese. The poor people are shouting up to President Nixon as he unloads the 
boat, "Oh, this is needed more than schools, hospitals, churches, pagodas or 
clothes for our women!" 

There is nothing the Vietnamese can do to protest U.S. policy in Vietnam 
short of demonstrating or joining the NLF. For example, when Vice-President 
Agnew went to Vietnam in the autumn of 1970, a group of twenty-one Viet- 
namese women tried to see him: 

"We are the Mothers of the political prisoners detained in the various prisons 
of South Vietnam," they wrote. "None of our children is convicted of crime or 
robbery. All of them are being imprisoned because they have dared spoken of 
Peace and Independence, a most profound desire of all the Vietnamese People 
after years and years of war. Our children were arrested and barbarously tortured. 
They have been denied food and drink, even medicine when they are sick." 

The guards at the U.S. embassy would not allow the leader of the women, Mrs. 
Ngo Ba Thanh, to enter the embassy to give the letter to Vice-President Agnew. 

98 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

Nor would they take the letter into the embassy or use the phone which they 
had at the gate to inform anyone inside the embassy that the women had a 
petition to give to the Vice-President. 

"The police forces which arrest and repress our children are being paid by 
the Americans," they wrote. "The equipment used by the Police to repress, 
torture, and jail our children is part of the U.S. aid. The tear gas, the rockets 
used to repress them are 'made in U.S.A.' We actually witnessed the terrible 
repression being carried out right in front of the U.S. embassy when we and 
our foreign friends demonstrated against the prison system on July 11th, 1970. 
. . . Our children witness the presence of American advisors at the prisons. 
They know that more aid is being given to build more and bigger prisons." 

The women presented sixteen suggested improvements. These included: No 
citizen shall be arrested without lawful grounds. All prisoners should be provided 
proper food and drink and appropriate care when they are sick. The prisoners 
should be allowed to write to their families. Parents should be notified when 
children are arrested. Criminal prisoners should not be used to guard political 
prisoners. Prisoners whose jail terms have expired should be released. Tiger 
cages, cattle cages, mysterious caves, separate cells, discipline cells and rooms 
used for inhumane tortures should be abolished. When a prisoner dies, his body 
should be returned to his family for proper burial. 

"The role of the American advisors should be to improve the prisoners' con- 
ditions, not merely watch the tortures done to our children, who suffer from 
hunger, thirst, disease and survive in agony in jail," the women argued. 

But there is no way for average citizens of Vietnam to indicate how they 
would like to see U.S. aid given. Nothing is said in the Pentagon Papers about 
how a farm woman or a market saleslady might indicate how she would like to 
see American help used. If the Pentagon Papers were translated for the Viet- 
namese farm people, they would see things being done just as they were while 
the French were there. They saw no help coming to them then nor was there 
any way for them to change the "system" when the French were there except 
for armed revolution. Things have not changed. 

One other group of people that the decisionmakers who wrote the memos in 
the Pentagon Papers ignored is the American soldiers. Most American soldiers 
go to Vietnam thinking that they are going to help the Vietnamese. When they 
arrive, they find that the Vietnamese don't want them there. They are demon- 
strating against U.S. policy. U.S. jeeps are being burned and signs are painted 
on the sidewalk walls: "GI go home." The American soldier goes to Vietnam 
to fight communism. Yet none of the soldiers knows who the Communists are. 
Everyone wears black pajamas! 

He is frustrated, and often terribly bored. He is looking for help, some kind 
of escape. His officer tells him to be a man and go on to battle. He finds the 
chaplaincy as conservative as General William Westmoreland. It's Christ's war, 
he's told, and given a prayer book: 

Guide me, direct me in my military duty. You know what my responsi- 
bility is: if I must use force, let it be without hatred for the enemy as a 
person, but only with greater love of what I believe is better, good, true 
and necessary to defend so that "Thy will be done. Thy Kingdom come." 
Jesus, You are the God of both me and the enemy — You made us both. 
Because of You, I respect the dignity of all men, even my enemy. If I 
kill or injure anyone in my duty, I pray You will have mercy on their 

"Tell Your Friends that We're People" 99 

souls and families. Help me, dear God, to fulfull my military duty in line 
with genuine Christian principles, honor and true justice.^ 

The American soldier becomes part of the push-button war. If he is a pilot, 
he drops bombs on a village without any idea of whom he is killing. Through 
electronic devices called "people sniffers," or seismic sensors, body heat can be 
picked up in remote jungle areas. A signal is sent by the electronic "people 
sniffers" to headquarters and the area is bombed by airplanes or bombarded by 
105 or 155 howitzer guns. The "people sniffers" cannot tell the difference be- 
tween North Vietnamese soldiers, Montagnard women going to market, or 
farmers getting bamboo to fix their homes. They cannot even tell the difference 
between people and animals. One soldier told me about following fifty or so 
"bodies" moving southward on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The area was bombed 
and he was on the detail sent out to make the body count. They got twenty- 
seven — monkeys . 

The American soldier is looking for escape. And he finds more "escape" and 
solace in heroin than he does from his officers or chaplains. In May 1971, heroin 
was selling for two dollars a vial. It could be bought from almost any cigarette 
saleslady and from many of the shoeshine boys (who sometimes got hooked 
when soldiers would get them to sniff it so that they could watch the boy's 
reaction). By mid- 1971, 15 percent of the U.S. soldiers were using hard drugs. 
One reason for the high number of nonhostile casualties has been the ODs 
(overdoses). The purity of heroin in Vietnam is about 95 percent. Men who 
used heroin in the U.S. before going to Vietnam got it in the U.S. at 10 percent 
purity. When the same amount of powder was used in Vietnam, it killed the 
soldier. Another problem has been that two dollars' worth of heroin in Viet- 
nam will cost $50 or $100 in the United States. The returning addict often 
resorts to stealing or pushing drugs to others. The problem of addiction has al- 
most been ignored by the Veterans' Hospitals in this country. 

The officials who made the decisions that got us deeper and deeper into 
Vietnam have moved on — McNamara to head the World Bank, McGeorge 
Bundy to head the Ford Foundation, William Bundy to edit Foreign Affairs. 
Each has been given a new job in one of the foundations or institutions where 
our foreign and domestic policies are made. Perhaps it should not surprise 
us to find that the officials who treated the Vietnamese so callously would 
treat Americans (or Brazilians, East Pakistanis, Greeks, etc.) any differently. 

The similarities to Vietnam are obvious. In Vietnam, the growing police force 
has not been used to combat the growing crime rate, but to control and repress 
political opposition. In the United States, where the police and crime are both 
increasing rapidly, the police and court systems are being used more and more 
often as political forces. An increasing amount of surveillance is being used; 
mass arrests in Washington and other large cities have become frequent; the 
Washington Post, New York Times and other newspapers were censored on the 
question of the Pentagon Papers. 

In Vietnam, one whole organization. International Voluntary Services, was 
kicked out of that country for being "too political." The Vietnam director, 
Hugh Manke, had testified before the Kennedy Senate Subcommittee on Refugees 
and protested the forced movement of the Montagnards from their mountain 
homes into the city slums. One of the IVS team members, Alex Shimkin, had 
told a New York Times reporter about the forced use of farm labor to clear a 
mine field in Ba Chuc village in the Mekong delta when American officials 

100 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

there refused to act even after some of the farm people were killed and several 
wounded. In Charleston, West Virginia, a group of volunteers from VISTA, a 
domestic group which is similar to IVS, were fired for stirring up trouble there. 
They had helped the mountain people around Charleston get school lunches 
for their children and to protest the inequalities between elemencary education 
for mountain children and Charleston children. 

Another example can be found in the different standards of justice for the 
rich and for the poor. In Vietnam, when Pham Chi Thien was caught smuggling 
a million dollars' worth of heroin into Saigon, he just continued his job as 
congressman. When election time came, he was allowed to run for office again 
(he lost!). But poor people caught stealing ten pounds of rice, or students caught 
in peace demonstrations, can spend five years in jail. As a parallel, when Bobby 
Baker was caught at extortion involving hundreds of thousands of dollars at the 
highest levels of our government, he was sentenced to less time in jail than George 
Jackson spent when he was charged with stealing seventy dollars' worth of 

The Pentagon Papers came as a shock to this country. Most people feel 
powerless, though. We have seen and heard our highest officials lie and violate 
the international agreement on warfare before. Yet most feel helpless to cope 
with the actions of high officials. 

While Lieutenant Calley was being tried, Vice-President Spiro Agnew ap- 
peared on "Face the Nation" (May 3, 1970) to explain the invasion of Cam- 
bodia: "The purpose of the strikes into the sanctuaries is not to go into Cam- 
bodia," the Vice-President said, "but to take and reduce these supply depots, 
the hospital complexes. . . ." To re-emphasize his point, he added five minutes 
later: "But they cannot move these facilities such as hospitals. . . ." 

Article 19 of the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition 
of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field of 12 August 1959 
states: "Fixed establishments and mobile medical units of the Medical Service 
may in no circumstances be attacked, but shall at all times be respected and 
protected by the Parties to the conflict." 

In Vietnam some American adventurers managed several small groups of 
Vietnamese dance girls who went out to the remote American outposts to put 
on their show. The final act was to auction off the leading lady to one of the 
U.S. military officers. 

The Pentagon Papers show the United States callously pursuing its own 
selfish motives through the Second Indochina War without regard for the people 
of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos or concern for America. Perhaps the greatest 
lesson to be learned is that a person cannot destroy another person without 
destroying something of himself; a nation cannot destroy another nation without 
destroying something of itself. 


1. Viet Nam: The Unheard Voices, by Don Luce and John Sommer, Cornell Univer- 
sity Press, Ithaca, New York, 1969, pages 181-182. 

2. Report to the Ambassador from the Director of the United States Agency for In- 
ternational Development, 1970, pages 42 and 43. 

3. From A Soldier Prays in Vietnam, "Prayer for the Enemy," page 13 (no publisher 
is listed on the pamphlet). It is passed out by chaplains and at the USO. 


8. The Superdomino in Postwar Asia: 
Japan in and Out of the Pentagon Papers 

by John W . Dower 

Pursuing references to Japan in the Pentagon Papers is somewhat like entering 
an echo chamber. Several concepts formulated by the National Security Council 
(NSC) around 1949 return again and again in subsequent NSC documents 
through the 1960s; reverberate in the opinions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; carom 
off into the public statements of official spolcesmen.i Refinements occur over 
time, but are less striking than the dogged repetition of certain catch phrases 
concerning Japan and its projected role in the American structuring of Asia. 
There are no great surprises in these documents insofar as an understanding of 
postwar U.S.-Japanese relations is concerned; presumedly these relations were 
addressed more directly in the diplomatic papers used for the original Pentagon 
study but withheld from publication. Certainly the full story of Japan's role in 
postwar Asia will require access to "Japan Papers" in both Japanese and English 
at least as voluminous as the Pentagon Papers, and most probably more complex. 
Still, with the Pentagon Papers plus a variety of other materials which have 
recently become available, it is now possible to structure the general course of 
Japan's postwar development in a more meaningful way. The essay which follows 
is an attempt to suggest one such framework of analysis — and, more importantly, 
to point to certain questions and problems which seem to demand particularly 
careful attention and study in the future — and to do so as much as possible by 
letting the sources utilized speak for themselves. 

Since 1945 the course taken by Japan has been influenced by a single outside 
power, the United States, to an extent rare outside the history of colonial coun- 
tries. That influence has been less criminal than the American impact upon 
Vietnam and Indochina; it has been less brutally tragic than the U.S. role vis-a-vis 
Korea. But it has not necessarily been less pervasive than in these other cases, 
and thus the study of postwar Japan becomes virtually inseparable from the 
examination of U.S.-Japanese relations. That is not the only focus possible or 
essential, of course — and indeed most scholars dealing with postwar Japan tend 
to blur this issue — but without this perspective, developments within Japan, to 
say nothing of the thrust of Japan's role in Asia, simply cannot be comprehended. 
The interlocks are complex and everywhere, and the key to these locks lies not 
so much in Japan itself as in American cold-war policy toward Asia. Economic, 
political and social change in post- 1945 Japan has been shaped (and misshapen) 
by this. Japan's postwar role in all Asia has litde meaning apart from this. And 
just as U.S. policy has been the key to an understanding of Japan over the last 
several decades, so in turn Japan has been the single most important key to 
American policy in Asia during this same period. Neither the Korean War nor 
the isolation and containment of China nor the Vietnam and Indochina wars can 
be understood apart from the role played by Japan in American eyes. In U.S. policy 

Copyright © 1972 by John W. Dower 

102 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

toward Asia, in the word of those who made it, was that "keystone." It remains 
so today, for the keystone is now also the third most powerful nation in the 

In the pages which follow, this relationship is approached from several direc- 
tions. Section 1 draws mostly upon the Pentagon Papers to document what has 
long been obvious: that Japan, more than Korea and more than Southeast Asia, 
has always been viewed by American policymakers as the superdomino in Asia 
(like Germany in Europe), and much of America's postwar Asian policy has 
derived from adherence to this simplistic metaphor. Section 2 relates this per- 
spective on the domino theory to the American creation, beginning around 1949, 
of a U.S.-Japan-Southeast Asia nexus aimed at the creation of a capitalist bloc 
in Asia and an economic and military noose around China. It traces the pur- 
portedly new "regionalism" of the Nixon Doctrine through all postwar U.S. 
administrations prior to Nixon. Section 3 examines the U.S.-Japan relationship 
as, in effect, a twentieth-century version of the unequal-treaty systems under 
which Westerners have always felt most comfortable when dealing with Asians. 
It suggests some of the levers manipulated by the United States to gain Japanese 
acquiescence to the Pax Americana in Asia. And by focusing primarily on the 
occupation period and its immediate aftermath, this section attempts to briefly 
suggest the way in which domestic developments within Japan have been shaped 
by American power. 

Section 4 addresses the role of war and militarization in postwar Japanese 
development, and points out some generally neglected anomalies in the nature 
of both the U.S.-Japan military relationship and the thrust of Japanese rearma- 
ment. Although the Japanese economic "miracle" has been intimately coupled 
with war since the nineteenth century, and thus offers the possibility for a search- 
ing case study into problems of capitalism and imperialism, bourgeois scholars 
have tended to skirt this problem. It is, in fact, somewhat skirted here also, but 
the question is raised for the postwar Japanese economy, and in particular 
attention is drawn to the correlation between U.S. escalation of the war in Viet- 
nam in 1964-1965 and the simultaneous Japanese move toward economic he- 
gemony in its two ex-colonies, Taiwan and the southern part of Korea. Section 
5 attempts to structure some of the paradoxes of the postwar relationship by 
examining American attitudes regarding the potential of Sino-Japanese economic 
relations, the superficially ironic fear of an American "loss of face" in Japan, 
the gap between the Japanese ruling elites and the Japanese public, and the po- 
tential of the Japanese masses for revolutionary action (thus prompting, among 
other things, conscious cultural imperialism on the part of the United States). 
On the surface, the totalistic (either/or) superdomino framework, which the 
Pentagon Papers reveal as having guided American policy toward Japan up to 
the mid-1960s, seems irrational and even paranoid. One explanation for this, 
it is finally suggested here, can be located in the conceptualizations of "totali- 
tarianism," "authoritarianism," or "collectivism" fashionable among liberals dur- 
ing this (and earlier) periods. That is, American policymakers were possessed 
by a fear of Japanese "accommodation to communism" because they saw a 
fundamental identity between the politics of the political right and the politics 
of the political left. Communism and fascism blurred under the rubric of au- 
thoritarianism, and confronted by a Japan moving increasingly to the right under 
U.S. pressure, the question inevitably arose: How far right is left? 

The final and longest section deals with Japan since 1968, that is, since the 
period covered by the Pentagon Papers, and outlines the striking contradictions 
which have emerged with seeming suddenness to characterize the U.S.-Japan 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 103 

alliance. The discussion focuses on Japan's emergence as a "superpower," on 
economic tensions between the two countries, and on the decidedly new stage 
of miHtary escalation which Japan has embarked upon under U.S. pressure. It 
asks, in brief: Where is Japan going? The economic crisis is approached through 
a revealing document recently released by the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Japa- 
nese militarism is addressed through Congressional hearings and reports, Chinese 
critiques, and analysis of the 1969 Nixon-Sato joint communique, the Okinawa 
reversion trade-offs, and two key documents issued by the Japanese Defense 
Agency in 1970. The final pages of the essay summarize the position taken by 
American spokesmen who view the Nixon-Kissinger rapprochement toward 
China as a potential disaster insofar as the U.S.-Japan relationship is concerned 
and who, in the conclusion reached here, in a sense seem to have brought the 
situation full circle: to the superdomino, and the apocalypse. 


Because of their particular focus on Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers offer 
largely a tunnel vision of Japan as the ultimate domino. Thus, in what the Papers 
describe as the "classic statement of the domino theory," it is argued that should 
the United States fail in its objectives in Vietnam, the consequences would extend 
far beyond Southeast Asia: 

Even the Philippines would become shaky, and the threat to India on the 
West, Australia and New Zealand to the South, and Taiwan, Korea, and 
Japan to the North and East would be greatly increased (Gravel edition, 

How would Japan respond to this "threat"? The Papers are clear on this. In the 
most sanguine appraisal, Japan would be "pressured to assume at best, a neu- 
tralist role" (Gravel ed., 11:664). More probably, Japan would move into the 
Communist camp : 

Orientation of Japan toward the West is the keystone of United States 
policy in the Far East. In the judgment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the loss 
of Southeast Asia to Communism would, through economic and political 
pressures, drive Japan into an accommodation with the Communist Bloc. 
The communization of Japan would be the probable ultimate result. 

The rice, tin, rubber, and oil of Southeast Asia and the industrial capacity 
of Japan are the essential elements which Red China needs to build a 
monolithic military structure far more formidable than that of Japan prior 
to World War II. If this complex of military power is permitted to develop 
to its full potential, it would ultimately control the entire Western and 
Southwestern Pacific region and would threaten South Asia and the Middle 
East (Gravel ed., 1:450). 

This apocalyptic appraisal dominates these documents, shared in common by 
civilian and military policymakers. Japan's estrangement from the United States 
would cause the collapse of the entire U.S. military and economic strategy in 
the Pacific, South Asia, and the Middle East — until eventually a threat to the 
very "security and stability of Europe, could be expected to ensue" (Gravel ed., 
1:452; cf. 1:375, 386, 463). John Foster Dulles often evoked this image of 

104 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

Japan as the global superdomino in his public speeches in the late 1940s and 
1950s. The Pentagon Papers make it clear that the famous Dulles rhetoric actually 
was, and remained, an internal touchstone of U.S. policy at the highest levels. 

Japan has been the key to postwar American policy in Asia since approxi- 
mately 1948 because, quite simply, it is strategically located and possesses im- 
mense war-making potential. George Kennan revealed in his Memoirs that, as 
head of the NSC Planning Staff, he stressed this point upon returning from a 
visit to occupied Japan in February and March, 1948.^ In one of the most 
valuable documents pertaining to Japan among the Pentagon Papers — an NSC 
draft of December 23, 1949, based on NSC 48 and reprinted only in the gov- 
ernment's own edition — this point received forceful emphasis: 

If Japan, the principal component of a Far Eastern war-making complex, 
were added to the Stalinist bloc, the Soviet Asian base could become a 
source of strength capable of shifting the balance of world power to the 
disadvantage of the United States. . . . 

In the power potential of Asia, Japan plays the most important part by 
reason of its industrious, aggressive population, providing a larger pool of 
trained manpower, its integrated internal communications system with a 
demonstrated potential for an efficient merchant marine, its already de- 
veloped industrial base and its strategic position. . . . 

The industrial plant of Japan would be the richest strategic prize in the 
Far East for the USSR. . . . 

From the military point of view, the United States must maintain a mini- 
mum position in Asia if a successful defense is to be achieved against future 
Soviet aggression. This minimum position is considered to consist of at 
least our present military position in the Asian offshore island chain, and 
in the event of war its denial to the Communists. The chain represents our 
first line of defense and in addition, our first line of offense from which we 
may seek to reduce the area of Communist control, using whatever means 
we can develop, without, however, using sizeable United States armed 
forces. The first line of strategic defense should include Japan, the Ryukyus, 
and the Philippines. This minimum position will permit control of the main 
lines of communication necessary to United States strategic development of 
the important sections of the Asian area.^ 

The 1949 NSC position bore a strong Kennan imprint, distinguishing between 
the respectively dismal and bright power potentials of China and Japan on the 
one hand, and between the Soviet Union and China as threats to the United 
States on the other hand. The policy at this time was overwhelmingly anti-Soviet, 
and in fact the NSC took care to emphasize that "The USSR is the primary 
target of those economic policies designed to contain or turn back Soviet- 
Communist imperialism and not China or any of the Soviet satellites considered 
as individual countries." ^ As late as the basic "New Look" document of the 
Eisenhower Administration in October 1953 (NSC 162/2), the possibility that 
the People's Republic of China might assert its independence from the USSR 
was still acknowledged, but by this time the observation was irrelevant and 
Japan's strategic role — originally conceived vis-a-vis the Soviet Union — was 
simply retooled to counter the "Communist Bloc" or, increasingly from the time 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 105 

of the Korean War, simply "Communist China." Under the Kennedy Admin- 
istration, occasionally commended for its less dogmatic view of China, the Peo- 
ple's Republic was in fact elevated to the position of foremost enemy, and Japan's 
role was seen primarily in this context.^ 

However vaguely or precisely the enemy has been defined — the Soviet Bloc 
or the Communist Bloc, the USSR or China, North Korea or North Vietnam — 
Japan's strategic importance has remained essentially the same. Both militarily 
and economically it was developed to become the linchpin of U.S. forward con- 
tainment in Southeast as well as Northeast Asia. Its functions have been many- 
faceted. On the military side Japan, including Okinawa, provides extensive bases 
and services to the U.S. Air Force and Seventh Fleet, plus its own evolving mili- 
tary capabilities. Economically it has been directed to shore up America's falter- 
ing Asian allies through exports, aid, and investments — while in turn drawing 
sustenance from them in the form of raw materials plus trade and investment 
profits. Japan's role vis-a-vis China, clear since 1950, has been to contain it 
militarily, isolate it economically, and enable other less developed countries on 
China's periphery to do likewise. 


The Pentagon Papers reveal not only the "keystone" role of Japan, but also 
the fact that creation of triangular, mutually reinforcing relations between the 
United States, Japan, and Southeast Asia has been integral to American objec- 
tives in Asia since the late 1940s. This policy actually preceded the firm U.S. 
commitment to rigid isolation of China, and was merely intensified by the adop- 
tion of the containment strategy. In the December 23, 1949, NSC document, 
this was stressed from the Japanese point of view: 

While scrupulously avoiding assumption of responsibility for raising Asiatic 
living standards, it is to the U.S. interest to promote the ability of these coun- 
tries to maintain, on a self-supporting basis, the economic conditions pre- 
requisite to political stability. Japan can only maintain its present living 
standard on a self-supporting basis if it is able to secure a greater proportion 
of its needed food and raw material (principally cotton) imports from the 
Asiatic area, in which its natural markets lie, rather than from the U.S., in 
which its export market is small. In view of the desirability of avoiding 
preponderant dependence on Chinese sources, and the limited availability 
of supplies from prewar sources in Korea and Formosa, this will require a 
considerable increase in Southern Asiatic food and raw material exports.^ 

It was also approached from the complementary perspective of Japan's capacity 
to contribute to economic development in non-communist Asia: 

Our interest in a viable economy in the non-Communist countries of Asia 
would be advanced by increased trade among such countries. Japanese and 
Indian industrial revival and development can contribute to enlarged intra- 
regional trade relations which suffered a set-back because of the economic 
vacuum resulting from the defeat of Japan, the devastation caused by the 
war in other areas and the interference and restrictions arising from ex- 
tensive governmental controls."^ 

106 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

While general economic relations between Japan and China were not opposed 
by the NSC at this time, certain restrictions in Japan's trade with the mainland 
were encouraged, as was the development of alternative (non-Chinese) markets 
for Japan: 

It should also be our objective to prevent Chinese Communists from ob- 
taining supplies of goods of direct military utility which might be used to 
threaten directly the security interests of the western powers in Asia. It is 
not, however, either necessary or advisable to restrict trade with China in 
goods which are destined for normal civilian uses within China provided 
safeguards are established to accomplish the two objectives mentioned above 
[denial of strategic goods to the USSR and China]. . . . Japan's economy 
cannot possibly be restored to a self-sustaining basis without a considerable 
volume of trade with China, the burden of Japan on the United States 
economy cannot be removed unless Japan's economy is restored to a self- 
sustaining basis and U.S. interference with natural Japanese trade relations 
with China would produce profound Japanese hostility. . . . While SCAP 
should be requested to avoid preponderant dependence on Chinese markets 
and sources of supply he should not be expected to apply controls upon 
Japan's trade with China more restrictive than those applied by Western 
European countries in their trade with China. At the same time, SCAP 
should encourage development of alternative Japanese markets elsewhere in 
the world, including Southern and Southeast Asia, on an economic basis.^ 

Comparable policies concerning Japan and Southeast Asia were briefly reem- 
phasized by the NSC in a document prepared four months prior to the San 
Francisco peace conference of September 1951, with the added specific goal of 
encouraging Japanese military production for use "in Japan and in other non- 
communist countries of Asia" ^ (see Section 3 below). 

The exact point at which the United States abandoned its policy of permitting 
Japan to restore relations with China remains unclear, although it is known that 
both Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida and Britain's Foreign Minister Herbert 
Morrison participated in the San Francisco peace conference with Dulles' assur- 
ances that after independence Japan would be free to establish relations with 
China — as in fact both the Japanese and British desired. Following the peace 
conference, however, Dulles foreclosed this option. In December 1951 he jour- 
neyed to Japan to inform Yoshida that the price of Congressional ratification of 
the peace treaty would be a Japanese pledge of nonrelations with the People's 
Republic. The Japanese had little choice but to comply, and the resultant "Yoshida 
Letter" of December 1951 was Japan's ticket to second-class independence in 
America's Asia.^o Under CHINCOM (China Committee), the U.S.-directed in- 
ternational group established in September 1952 to formalize an embargo on 
exports to China, "independent" Japan was maneuvered into acceptance of con- 
trols over trade with China which, until 1957, were more strict and far-reaching 
than the controls adhered to by any other country with the exception of the 
United States. Writing on this subject in 1967, Gunnar Adler-Karlson observed 
that "The reasons for this are at present unknown, but the pressure from the 
American side on a nation defeated in the war is likely to have been the main 
reason." Even after the Western European countries in effect repudiated the 
CHINCOM restrictions in 1957, Japan's trade with China and its conformance 
with the continuing U.S. embargo was subject to regular discussion in meetings 
of the U.S.-Japanese Joint Economic Committee.^^ 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 107 

With China thus substantially closed to Japan as both open market and source 
of raw materials, the imperatives of developing Southeast Asia (and the United 
States) as alternative economic partners for Japan became even greater. This 
was accomplished through complex economic manipulations on the part of the 
United States in particular, but also Japan — lucrative American military pur- 
chases in Japan (''special procurements"); military-related U.S. aid packages 
(the Mutual Defense Assistance, or MDA, agreements); U.S. -arranged preferen- 
tial treatment for Japan through the World Bank; most-favored-nation treatment 
under the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); triangular trade- 
offs in the export/import lists of the United States, Japan, and Southeast Asia 
(pivoting on U.S. Public Law 480, whereby U.S. agricultural surpluses were 
moved into Japan to stimulate the Japanese economy with special focus on 
Japanese exports to Southeast Asia); use of Japanese reparations to Southeast 
Asia as the cutting edge of Japan's economic penetration of the area; and so 
on.^- Thus long before the 1954 Geneva Conference, the American economic 
blueprint for Asia tied Japan firmly to the dollar, to Southeast Asia, and to 
militarization and war. That the Japanese understood this perfectly was indicated 
in a private note to the United States of February 1952, two months before the 
formal restoration of Japanese sovereignty: 

Japan will contribute to the rearmament plan of the United States, supplying 
military goods and strategic materials by repairing and establishing defense 
industries with the technical and financial assistance from the United States, 
and thereby assure and increase a stable dollar receipt. . . . Japan will 
cooperate more actively with the development of South East Asia along 
the lines of the economic assistance programs of the United States. 

The memo further stated that future Japanese economic growth would be geared 
to U.S. demands in Asia, and that the dollar inflow from meeting such demands 
would ensure Japan's emergence as one of America's chief markets. 

The details of these intricate transactions require further study, but the ra- 
tionale behind the Japan-Southeast Asia interlock is amply available in the 
Pentagon Papers and indeed has long been part of the public record. The Eisen- 
hower Administration in particular performed quotable service in this respect, 
for in attempting to explain the American position at the time of the 1954 Geneva 
Accords, U.S. spokesmen commonly evoked Japan. In one of his more resound- 
ing pronouncements, for example, Dulles declared on radio at the very moment 
the Geneva Conference turned to Indochina that Ho Chi Minh was a Communist 
"trained in Moscow" who would "deprive Japan of important foreign markets 
and sources of food and raw materials." In a March 1954 speech entitled "The 
Threat of a Red Asia," he developed this further, touching in brief compass 
virtually all of the major points subsequent policymakers would refer to when 
citing the importance of Southeast Asia to Japan (food, raw materials, markets, 
sea and air lanes, and the offshore island chain) : 

Southeast Asia is the so-called "rice bowl" which helps to feed the densely 
populated region that extends from India to Japan. It is rich in many raw 
materials, such as tin, oil, rubber, and iron ore. It offers industrial Japan 
potentially important markets and sources of raw materials. 

The area has great strategic value. Southeast Asia is astride the most 
direct and best-developed sea and air routes between the Pacific and South 
Asia. It has major naval and air bases. Communist control of Southeast 

108 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

Asia would carry a grave threat to the Philippines, Australia, and New 
Zealand, with whom we have treaties of mutual assistance. The entire West- 
ern Pacific area, including the so-called "offshore island chain," would be 
strategically endangered (Gravel ed., 1:594; cf. 600). 

Eisenhower reiterated this theme in a news conference in which he emphasized 
the importance of Indochina in terms of "what you would call the 'falling domino' 
principle." Loss of the area to communism, he explained, "takes away, in its 
economic aspects, that region Japan must have as a trading area or Japan, in 
turn, will have only one place in the world to go — that is, toward the Com- 
munist areas in order to live" (Gravel ed., 1:597). Near the end of his presi- 
dency, Eisenhower stressed the complementary nature of the two areas in simple 
terms which ignored the forced dimension of the relationship and well typify 
liberal American comment on this issue to the present day : 

As a different kind of example of free nation interdependence, there is 
Japan, where very different problems exist — but problems equally vital to 
the security of the free world. Japan is an essential counterweight to Com- 
munist strength in Asia. Her industrial power is the heart of any collective 
effort to defend the Far East against aggression. 

Her more than 90 million people occupy a country where the arable land 
is no more than that of California. More than perhaps any other industrial 
nation, Japan must export to live. Last year she had a trade deficit. At one 
time she had a thriving trade with Asia, particularly with her nearest neigh- 
bors. Much of it is gone. Her problems grow more grave. 

For Japan there must be more free world outlets for her products. She 
does not want to be compelled to become dependent as a last resort upon 
the Communist empire. Should she ever be forced to that extremity, the 
blow to free world security would be incalculable; at the least it would mean 
for all other free nations greater sacrifice, greater danger, and lessened 
economic strength. 

What happens depends largely on what the free world nations can, and 
will, do. 

Upon us — upon you here — in this audience — rests a heavy responsibility. 
We must weigh the facts, fit them into place, and decide on our course of 

For a country as large, as industrious, and as progressive as Japan to 
exist with the help of grant aid by others, presents no satisfactory solution. 
Furthermore, for us, the cost would be, over the long term, increasingly 
heavy. Trade is the key to a durable Japanese economy. 

One of Japan's greatest opportunities for increased trade lies in a free and 
developing Southeast Asia. So we see that the two problems I have been 
discussing are two parts of a single one — the great need in Japan is for raw 
materials; in Southern Asia it is for manufactured goods. The two regions 
complement each other markedly. So, by strengthening Viet-Nam and help- 
ing insure the safety of the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, we gradually 
develop the great trade potential between this region, rich in natural re- 
sources, and highly industrialized Japan to the benefit of both. In this way 
freedom in the Western Pacific will be greatly strengthened and the interests 
of the whole free world advanced. But such a basic improvement can come 
about only gradually. Japan must have additional trade outlets now. These 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 109 

can be provided if each of the industrialized nations in the West does its 
part in liberalizing trade relations with Japan (Gravel ed., 1:626-627). 

The Kennedy and Johnson administrations simply followed the Eisenhower script 
on this score. In late September 1964, on the eve of the U.S. escalation in Viet- 
nam, for example, William Bundy visited Japan and offered listeners there what 
might be called the Houdini variation of the domino principle (they don't fall, 
but disappear) : 

We believe it essential to the interests of the free world that South Vietnam 
not be permitted to fall under communist control. If it does, then the rest 
of Southeast Asia will be in grave danger of progressively disappearing be- 
hind the Bamboo Curtain and other Asian countries like India and even in 
time Australia and your own nation in turn will be threatened (Gravel ed., 

While the primary focus in the Japan-Southeast Asia nexus has been economic, 
the military side of the relationship also requires emphasis. Most obviously, this 
has involved U.S. reliance on bases and facilities in Japan and Okinawa for 
aggression in Indochina. As noted previously, well before the termination of the 
occupation of Japan, it was planned that part of the spin-off from Japanese re- 
militarization be provision of military goods to less-developed Asian nations. 
More important than this during the initial postwar decades, however, has been 
the assumption that Japan's economic involvement in Southeast Asia will both 
stabilize the pro-American, anti-Communist regimes there and contribute directly 
and indirectly to their own capacity for developing local military-related in- 
dustry. Although Japanese personnel have been employed by the United States 
in both the Korean and Vietnam wars (as "civilian" technicians, boat crews, 
etc.), Japan has not yet dispatched troops abroad. As noted in Section 6 below, 
however, this constraint is now being eroded, and since the late 1960s the Japa- 
nese have on occasion expressed interest in future "peace-keeping" contributions 
in the area through dispatch of ground forces to Indochina and naval forces to 
the Straits of Malacca. American spokesmen also anticipate that Japan, will pro- 
vide increasing military "supporting assistance" to anti-Communist regimes in 
Southeast Asia "under the label of economic aid," and that by the mid-1970s the 
Japanese government will have surmounted domestic opposition to the training 
of foreign military personnel on Japanese soil.^^ 

The corollary to integration of Japan and Southeast Asia, as noted, has been 
the basic American position that neither area could be allowed to establish any 
kind of significant economic relationship with China. This would not only 
strengthen China materially, but also strengthen China's influence over the two 
areas at the expense of American economic hegemony throughout non-Com- 
munist Asia. During the Eisenhower Administration the goal was thus to prevent 
a Japanese "accommodation with the Communist bloc" (Gravel ed., 1:472). 
Under Kennedy and Johnson, the pet phrase was if anything more urgent, spe- 
cific, and paranoid: a constantly reiterated fear of the "growing feeling" in Japan 
"that Communist China must somehow be lived with" (Gravel ed., 111:219, 623, 
627, 658). From the Truman through the Johnson administrations, the goal of 
American policy in Asia was to freeze bipolarity until an integrated capitalist 
network had been created which could be capable of remaining relatively in- 
vulnerable to the pressures, or temptations, of the Communist nations. In a 

110 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

November 1964 memo, one of William Bundy's advisers summarized U.S. ob- 
jectives in Vietnam as being to "delay China's swallowing up Southeast Asia until 
(a) she develops better table manners and (b) the food is somewhat more in- 
digestible" (Gravel ed., 111:592). With this image at hand, it may perhaps be 
concluded that Japan's role vis-a-vis Southeast Asia had been to help make that 
area indigestible — or possibly, as it is actually working out, to digest it itself. 

These strategies of the early cold-war period are only now coming to fruition 
insofar as Japan's role is concerned. And indeed it is a striking perspective on 
the "Nixon Doctrine" that, despite the currently fashionable rhetoric of "re- 
gionalism" and "multilateralism," the policies advanced by the Nixon Admin- 
istration are in fact very close to those which the Pentagon Papers reveal as 
having been the objectives of all prior postwar U.S. administrations. Whether 
under Truman or Eisenhower, Kennedy or Johnson, the United States has con- 
sistently aimed at the creation of Asian regional groupings which would inter- 
lock in turn with American global interests, whether economic or military. As 
discussed in Section 6 below, this strategy has been greatly complicated by 
developments which have taken place under President Nixon, notably the Sino- 
American rapprochement and emerging contradictions within the U.S.-Japan 
alliance. But at the root, current American policy remains consistent with the 
goals first established in the late 1940s and 1950s. "Asian regionalism" remains 
capitalist, anti-Communist, and anti-Chinese — whatever its new guises. Thus in 
the Symington Committee hearings of 1970, U. Alexis Johnson, Undersecretary 
of State and former ambassador to Japan, acknowledged Chinese apprehensions 
concerning Japan's economic penetration of Southeast Asia and then in effect 
confirmed the legitimacy of those fears. Discussing Japanese participation in the 
Asian Development Bank and the Ministerial Conference on Southeast Asia 
Economic Development, Johnson acknowledged that "The whole host of rela- 
tionships which Japan has sought in the economic and political field with the 
countries of Southeast Asia obviously represents a hindrance or a block, if you 
will, to efforts of the Chinese to extend their influence in the area." And that, 
of course, has always been precisely the goal. 

The point should not require belaboring, but it has in fact been generally 
obscured: the United States has never intended to carry the burden of anti- 
Communist and anti-Chinese consolidation in Asia alone. It has always seen the 
end goal as a quasi-dependent Asian regionalism. Under Truman, the NSC 
stressed that "a strong trading area of the free countries of Asia would add to 
general economic development and strengthen their social and political stability. 
Some kind of regional association, facilitating interchange of information, among 
the non-Communist countries of Asia might become an important means of 
developing a favorable atmosphere for such trade among themselves and with 
other parts of the world." ^" By 1954, under Eisenhower, the U.S. documents are 
quite blunt about the ultimate goal of an Asian regionalism covertly underwritten 
by, militarized by, and interlocked with the capitalist powers of the West: 

It should be U.S. policy to develop within the UN charter a Far Eastern 
regional arrangement subscribed and underwritten by the major European 
powers with interests in the Pacific. 

a. Full accomplishment of such an arrangement can only be developed 
in the long term and should therefore be preceded by the development, 
through indigenous sources, of regional economic and cultural agreements 
between the several Southeast Asian countries and later with Japan. Such 
agreements might take a form similar to that of the OEEC in Europe. 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 111 

Action: State, CIA, FOA 

b. Upon the basis of such agreements, the U.S. should actively but 
unobtrusively seek their expansion into mutual defense agreements and 
should for this purpose be prepared to underwrite such agreements with 
military and economic aid . . . (Gravel ed., 1:475) . 

John F. Kennedy, just prior to assumption of the Presidency, expressed the anti- 
China regionalism concept in these terms: 

The real question is what should be done about the harsh facts that China 
is a powerful and aggressive nation. The dangerous situation now existing 
can be remedied only by a strong and successful India, a strong and success- 
ful Japan, and some kind of regional group over Southeast Asia which gives 
these smaller countries the feeling that, in spite of their distaste for a military 
alliance, they will not be left to be picked off one by one at the whim of 
the Peiping regime (Gravel ed., 11:799). 

Under Lyndon Johnson, in 1967, the goal appeared to be almost within grasp: 

The fact is that the trends in Asia today are running mostly for, not 
against, our interests (witness Indonesia and the Chinese confusion); there 
is no reason to be pessimistic about our ability over the next decade or two 
to fashion alliances and combinations (involving especially Japan and India) 
sufficient to keep China from encroaching too far (Gravel ed., IV: 174). 

All postwar administrations have recognized the sensitivity of Asian nations 
to Western neo-colonial domination. All have sought to encourage anti-Com- 
munist regional groupings in Asia, led by Japan with the United States in the 
wings. And at the heart of all such policies, up to and including the Nixon Doc- 
trine, has been the U.S.-Japan-Southeast Asia nexus. In their constant reiteration 
of this objective, of course, U.S. policymakers have conveniently neglected to give 
due weight to one of its most obvious and unpleasant flaws: the fact that most 
Asian nationalists are also acutely sensitive to the very real threat of Japanese 


The integration of Japan into America's Asia undoubtedly profited the Japa- 
nese state in a number of ways, but the long-range costs may prove to be far 
greater than the immediate dividends. For U.S. pressure on Japan has inevitably 
shaped not only Japan's external policy, but its internal development as well. 
This has been particularly obvious in the rapid recartelization and remilitariza- 
tion of the Japanese economy, but the social and political consequences within 
Japan have been no less profound. Whether directly or indirectly, for example, 
political polarization within contemporary Japan is virtually inseparable from 
American designs for postwar Japan and postwar Asia. Economic priorities have 
been largely shaped in accordance with U.S. requirements, and this in turn has 
supported a ruling class with predictably conservative goals in education, civil 
liberties, "quality-of-life" problems, and the like. The initial thrust in this direc- 
tion, as suggested in the preceding sections, was imposed while Japan was still 
under U.S. occupation; beginning around 1947-1948, it took the form of a 

112 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

"reverse course" repudiating many of the early reform goals of the occupation. 
What must be stressed here, however, is that the termination of the occupation 
in April 1952 did not greatly change anything. The United States retained im- 
posing de facto control over the course of Japanese development. And under 
the conservative Japanese ruling coalition which had been firmly entrenched by 
the end of the occupation, the reverse course has continued, step by step, to the 
present day. 

In blunt terms, the United States has had to buy Japan's allegiance to Amer- 
ican strategy in postwar Asia. There is room for considerable debate over the 
tactics of this: what the price has been, how it has been paid, and how it has 
changed over time. But the fact of Japan's subordinate and quasi-mercenary 
status vis-a-vis the United States for the greater part of the postwar era is rarely 
denied any longer even by the spokesmen of the two countries. In the Symington 
Committee hearings, for example, U. Alexis Johnson engaged in this exchange 
with Senators William Fulbright and Stuart Symington: 

SENATOR FULBRIGHT: ... If we go out and hire foreign govern- 
ments and pay them to agree with us, I think we are perhaps cutting off the 
source of good advice. We ought to go in more as equals and say, "What do 
you think about it?" If they say, "You are being a fool," we ought to take it 

MR. JOHNSON: All I can say. Senator, is that insofar as Japan is con- 
cerned, I do not feel that our expenditures in Japan are any significant factor 
in Japanese attitudes. 


MR. JOHNSON: Any more. 

SENATOR SYMINGTON: They were once. 

MR. JOHNSON: Oh, yes. I agree. I do not think they are any more,^^ 

Roughly a year later, in February 1971, Aiichiro Fujiyama — a leading Japanese 
businessman, conservative politician, and former Foreign Minister — implicitly dis- 
agreed with the Johnson view only to the extent of denying that Japan had yet 
escaped this subordination. In an interview with a correspondent for the Far 
Eastern Economic Review, Fujiyama explained Japan's China policy as follows: 

Q. Why do you think the government takes what appears to be a minority 
view not only in the international community but in Japan as well, and does 
it think this policy conforms with the national interest? 
A. It operates, jointly with Taiwan and South Korea, within the framework 
of U.S. Asia policy, and cannot deviate from this basic line. Some people 
believe that to keep China out of spheres where it might clash with Japan 
serves their own brand of national interest. 

"Our foreign ministry," Fujiyama went on to note, "is just following the Wash- 
ington line." Then, in a rather striking comment for a member of the ruling 
Liberal-Democratic party, he proceeded to acknowledge that the "social climate" 
which had developed in Japan under the reverse course and the Washington line 
had indeed increased the possibility of Japanese militarism: 

Q. In your talks with the Chinese leaders, how will you account for the 
charges of the revival of Japanese militarism which are bound to come up? 
A. China has been very sensitive to foreign domination since the days of 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 113 

Sun Yat-sen. It has reason — no country has suffered more from Japanese 
militarism than China. MiUtarism may not be a state of armament alone. 
It may be just as much a problem of mentality, a state of mind. I strongly 
feel that these charges of militarism are largely directed against the social 
cUmate of Japan, which is susceptible to totalitarianism. Individualism is 
still in a very young stage here; I think it is for us Japanese to rethink and 
reappraise ourselves rather than to refute or deny foreign charges. I strongly 
fear the current trend in which the younger generation is increasingly show- 
ing interest in war, if not accepting it. It is our responsibility to drive home 
that war is not a romantic affair. 

The pathetic response of the Japanese government to the Nixon Administration's 
sudden overtures to China in 1971-1972 can only be understood in this context. 
Long accustomed to being bought off, they were not, however, prepared to be 
sold out. 

The origins and nature of the reverse course in occupied Japan remain a sub- 
ject of considerable interest. One basic issue still requiring fuller documentation 
here is the very question of U.S. motivations in initiating this turn of policy 
away from the initial occupation goals of "demihtarization and democratization." 
With the notable exception of mainstream American scholarship on the subject, 
most observers have attributed this to cold-war geopolitics — that is, the reverse 
course is seen primarily as part of America's larger strategic decision to contain 
the Soviet Union and, increasingly, impede the course of revolution in China 
and throughout Asia. American scholars, on the other hand, have tended to 
adopt a more internalized view and justify the reverse course largely in terms 
of the need to remedy (for the good of Japan) the economic chaos existing 
within the country at that time; at the same time, they argue, it was necessary to 
get Japan on its feet economically in order to "preserve the reforms" and ease 
the tax burden which the occupation was imposing on the American people 
(some half billion dollars annually). In this view, strategic cold-war considera- 
tions were secondary to more practical economic concerns within Japan itself, 
and the United States did not really repudiate its generally idealistic original 
goals for Japan. Recent documentary collections such as the Pentagon Papers, 
the John Foster Dulles papers, and the papers of Joseph M. Dodge, who en- 
gineered the economic reverse course in occupied Japan, make continued ad- 
herence to the American Altruism Abroad School of postwar Japanese history 
increasingly a matter of mystical commitment. But at the very same time, these 
materials do raise provocative questions concerning the extent to which funda- 
mentally economic considerations on a global scale may have taken precedence 
in both time and importance over more strictly military geopolitical concerns. 
The recent revisionist work of Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, for example, argues 
flatly that "Washington's considerations in Japan were first and foremost eco- 
nomic," meaning preservation of a global capitalist system, and developments in 
China only "added urgency" to the decision to "insure a self-supporting capitalist 
Japan." 20 

The Pentagon Papers shed only belated light on this particular issue, for the 
earliest document of importance which deals at any length with Japan dates 
from December 1949, by which time the reverse course was already in full swing 
— having been initiated, significantly, long before the "anti-Japanese" Sino-Soviet 
Pact of February 1950 and a matter of years before the outbreak of the Korean 
War. The essence of this initial reverse course was indeed U.S. support for the 
emergence of a dependable, capitalist ruling class in Japan, and beginning in 

114 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

1948 Shigeru Yoshida, with increasing U.S. support, began to fashion the "tripod" 
of big business, bureaucracy, and conservative party which has controlled Japan 
to the present day. The tentacles of this development were many; emanating 
from the fundamental reversal in economic policy, they reached out to strangle 
early reforms in the political, social, and military spheres as well. Zaibatsu dis- 
solution was abandoned and recartelization encouraged; reparations were tem- 
porarily curtailed to hasten capital formation; restrictions on the production of 
hitherto banned war-related materials were lifted; purgees and war criminals 
were released; the working class was crippled through antilabor legislation plus 
wage freezes and "retrenchment" policies; "Red purges" (Japan's McCarthyism) 
were instituted to eliminate the leaders of effective dissent in both the private and 
public sectors; and so on. 

By 1948-1949, the reverse course had also moved into overtly military direc- 
tions. In November 1948 the NSC, spurred by Kennan's recommendations, called 
for the creation of a large national police force capable of suppressing domestic 
unrest in Japan. As the Communists consolidated their victory in China in 1949, 
it became known that severe divisions had emerged within the U.S. government 
over the future military disposition of Japan, with the Department of Defense 
opposed to relinquishing any U.S. control over the Japanese islands whatsoever. 
In November 1949, the State Department gave public indication of an apparent 
resolution of this internal debate by announcing that the United States was 
willing to seek a peace settlement with Japan conditional upon the indefinite post- 
treaty stationing of U.S. military forces in Japan. In fact, however, this did not 
assuage the Defense Department or resolve the debate in Washington. Dulles 
was brought into the State Department by President Truman in April 1950 to 
bring "bipartisanship" to the Japan issue, and on the eve of the Korean War 
Dulles was in Japan attempting to sell Yoshida on the U.S.'s latest price for 
sovereignty: Japanese remilitarization and rearmament — in addition to the post- 
independence presence of American troops. 

The Pentagon Papers include, in the government edition only, two NSC docu- 
ments which deal at some length with policy toward occupied Japan. The first, 
dated December 23, 1949, and drawing upon position papers prepared earlier 
that year (notably NSC 48), is especially provocative, for it offers not only a 
rare glimpse of American officials musing on the national character of Japan, 
but also a defense of the road Japan was subsequently not allowed to take: the 
middle road in a multipolar, not bipolarized, Asia. It is important, in other words, 
that this document be read with the awareness that it was issued by the NSC 
at a time when Japan policy was the subject of intense controversy in Washing- 
ton, and thus represents only one corner of the debate taking place at that time. 
In all likelihood it reflects the economically oriented position endorsed by George 
Kennan at this time and subsequently militarized by the U.S. government — thus, 
in Kennan's view, freezing America's options in Asia and very possibly con- 
tributing to the outbreak of the war in Korea.22 Since the document is relatively 
inaccessible, the main sections on Japan are reproduced here: 

8. Japan has ceased to be a world power, but retains the capability of 
becoming once more a significant Asiatic power. Whether its potential is 
developed and the way in which it is used will strongly influence the future 
patterns of politics in Asia. As a result of the occupation, Japan's political 
structure has been basically altered and notable steps have been taken toward 
the development of democratic institutions and practices. Despite these ad- 
vances, however, traditional social patterns, antithetical to democracy, re- 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 115 

main strong. The demonstrated susceptibility of these patterns to totalitarian 
exploitation is enhanced by economic maladjustment which may grow more 
serious as a result of population increases and of obstacles to the expansion 
of trade. 

9. Although, in terms of the Japanese context, an extreme right-wing 
movement might be more effective in exploiting traditional patterns and 
current dislocations than one of the extreme left, a number of factors com- 
bine to make the threat of Communism a serious one. These factors include 
the close proximity to a weak and disarmed Japan of Communist areas with 
the attendant opportunities for infiltration, clandestine support of Japanese 
Communist efforts, and diplomatic pressure backed by a powerful threat; 
the potential of Communist China as a source of raw materials vital to 
Japan and a market for its goods; and the existence in Japan of an ably-led, 
aggressive, if still relatively weak. Communist movement which may be 
able to utilize Japanese tendencies toward passive acceptance of leadership 
to further its drive for power while at the same time exploiting economic 
hardship to undermine the acceptability to the Japanese of other social 
patterns that are antithetical to Communist doctrines. 

10. Even if totalitarian patterns in Japan were to reassert themselves in 
the form of extreme right-wing rather than Communist domination, the 
prospect would remain that Japan would find more compelling the political 
and economic factors moving it toward accommodation to the Soviet orbit 
internationally, however anti-Communist its internal policies, than those 
that move it toward military alliance with the United States. Extreme right- 
wing domination of Japan, moreover, although less immediately menacing 
to the United States than Communist control would represent a failure, par- 
ticularly marked in the eyes of other non-Communist Asiatic countries, of 
a major United States political effort. 

11. A middle of the road regime in Japan retaining the spirit of the 
reform program, even if not necessarily the letter, would in the long-run 
prove more reliable as an ally of the United States than would an extreme 
right-wing totalitarian government. Under such a regime the channels would 
be open for those elements in Japan that have gained most from the occupa- 
tion to exercise their influence over government policy and to mold public 
opinion. Such a regime would undoubtedly wish to maintain normal political 
and economic relations with the Communist bloc and, in the absence of 
open hostilities, would probably resist complete identification either with 
the interests of the United States or the Soviet Union. The existence of 
such a regime, however, will make possible the most effective exercise of 
United States political and economic influence in the direction of ensuring 
Japan's friendship, its ability to withstand external and internal Communist 
pressure, and its further development in a democratic direction. 

12. The basic United States non-military objectives in Japan, therefore, 
remain the promotion of democratic forces and economic stability before 
and after the peace settlement. To further this objective the United States 
must seek to reduce to a minimum occupation or post-occupation interfer- 
ence in the processes of Japanese government while at the same time pro- 
viding protection for the basic achievements of the occupation and the 
advice and assistance that will enable the Japanese themselves to perpetuate 
these achievements; provide further economic assistance to Japan and, in 
concert with its allies, facilitate the development of mutually beneficial eco- 
nomic relations between Japan and all other countries of the world; make it 

116 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

clear to Japan that the United States will support it against external ag- 
gression while at the same time avoiding the appearance that its policies in 
Japan are dictated solely by considerations of strategic self-interest and 
guarding against Japan's exploitation of its strategic value to the United 
States for ends contrary to United States policy interests; and promote the 
acceptance of Japan as a peaceful, sovereign member of the community of 
nations. 2^ 

The Korean War became the pretext for repudiation of even the qualified 
flexibility of this NSC position; and by the time of the San Francisco peace 
conference of September 1951 it had been almost completely thrown to the 
winds. The remilitarization and remonopolization of the Japanese economy had 
been set on an inexorable course. The Japanese military was under reconstruction 
in the guise of a National Police Reserve. The way had been opened for the 
return of prewar rightist politicians, businessmen, and military officers to influ- 
ential positions in both the public and private sectors. The Japanese labor move- 
ment was in disarray, partly through subversion by American labor organizations. 
Political dissent in Japan, under immense pressure from both U.S. spokesmen 
and the Japanese conservatives, was relegated to a position of increasing im- 
potence. The peace conference itself, widely hailed to the present day by most 
Americans as possibly Dulles' most notable achievement, was indeed a rather 
unique accomplishment: a "separate peace" for Asia, without Asians. The Soviet 
Union did not participate because of the militaristic provisions embodied in the 
concurrent U.S. -Japan Mutual Security Treaty — and indeed U.S. policymakers 
had recognized from before the Korean War that such arrangements would in- 
evitably exclude the possibility of Soviet concurrence. China did not participate 
because it was not permitted to do so; under the ruse of letting the Japanese 
themselves resolve the issue of relations with Peking or the Kuomintang regime 
at a later date, Dulles gained agreement that no Chinese representatives would 
be invited to the conference — and then, with this fait accompli behind him, forced 
the Japanese into relations with Taiwan. India, Indonesia, and Burma, in funda- 
mental disagreement with the Dulles style of statesmanship, refused to participate. 
The Philippines signed the treaty only after making known that it was in fact 
not to their liking. Indeed, Asian apprehension concerning the unilateral Ameri- 
can policy toward Japan which culminated at San Francisco was assuaged only 
by Dulles' simultaneous negotiation of military alliances with Australia and New 
Zealand (ANZUS), as well as the Philippines — pacts demanded of the United 
States at this time as insurance against future Japanese aggression. 

The second document in the government edition of the Pentagon Papers which 
deals with pre-independence policy for postindependence Japan was prepared by 
the NSC in May 1951, four months before the peace conference, and is quite 
succinct on Japan's projected role: 

With respect to Japan the United States should: 

a. Proceed urgently to conclude a peace settlement with Japan on the 
basis of the position already determined by the President, through urgent 
efforts to obtain agreement to this position by as many nations which partic- 
ipated in the war with Japan as possible. 

b. Proceed urgently with the negotiation of bilateral security arrange- 
ments with Japan on the basis of the position determined by the President 
to be concluded simultaneously with a peace treaty. 

c. Assist Japan to become economically self-supporting and to produce 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 117 

goods and services important to the United States and to the economic 
stability of the non-communist area of Asia. 

d. Pending the conclusion of a peace settlement continue to: 

( 1 ) Take such steps as will facilitate transition from occupation status 
to restoration of sovereignty. 

(2) Assist Japan in organizing, training, and equipping the National 
Police Reserve and the Maritime Safety Patrol in order to facilitate the 
formation of an effective military establishment. 

e. Following the conclusion of a peace settlement: 

( 1 ) Assist Japan in the development of appropriate military forces. 

(2) Assist Japan in the production of low-cost military materiel in 
volume for use in Japan and in other non-communist countries of Asia. 

(3) Take all practicable steps to achieve Japanese membership in the 
United Nations and participation in a regional security arrangement. 

(4) Establish appropriate psychological programs designed to further 
orient the Japanese toward the free world and away from communism.^* 

As Joseph Dodge observed even more tersely in January 1952, Japan's post- 
treaty obligations to the United States would be as follows: 

(1) Production of goods and services important to the United States and 
the economic stabilization of non-Communist Asia; (2) Production of low 
cost military material in volume for use in Japan and non-Communist Asia; 
(3) Development of its own appropriate military forces as a defensive shield 
and to permit the redeployment of United States forces. 

Following the restoration of independence, Japan in fact followed the Dodge 
outline, a path significantly distant from that urged earlier by Kennan. "Middle 
of the road" domestic politics in Japan was so quickly abandoned that by 1957 
Nobusuke Kishi, former economic czar of Manchukuo and wartime Vice Muni- 
tions Minister under Tojo, had emerged as Prime Minister with Mitsubishi back- 
ing and gladly renewed old interests as Munitions Minister for the Eisenhower 
Administration. "Middle of the road" external policies were so far beyond 
Japan's capability or concern by 1957 that, as head of his party's foreign policy 
committee, Kishi blithely appointed Kaya Okinobu, reputed architect of the 
Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity sphere concept.^^ War, expansion into Southeast 
Asia, and the United States — which together had brought Japan to shambles by 
1945 — became, within a matter of years, the determinants of Japanese recon- 


SENATOR CHURCH: "Mr. Secretary, is it the policy of the administra- 
tion to urge Japan to modernize its armed forces or to expand its military 

SECRETARY [of State] ROGERS: "Yes." 
SENATOR CHURCH: "That is a snappy answer." 
SECRETARY ROGERS: "Well, it is a snappy question." 

— from the Senate hearings on the 
Okinawa Reversion Treaty, October 1971 ^'^ 

1 1 8 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

Although the Secretary of State did not mention it, the military relationship 
between the United States and Japan also involves some fairly snappy anomalies. 
Some examples : 

By 1970 it was acknowledged that "Japan has the capacity of defending, 
now defending, Japan proper against a major conventional attack." Yet 
in 1970 the Japanese government, with strong U.S. support, announced its 
Fourth Defense Plan calling for a defense budget for the 1972-1976 period 
which is more than fifty percent larger than prior expenditures under the 
First, Second, and Third Defense Plans combined. It is anticipated, more- 
over, that the Fifth Defense Plan will show a comparable increase over the 
Fourth. i 

While the primary mission of Japan's "Self Defense Forces" is ostensibly 
defense of Japan against conventional external attack, there is in fact no 
meaningful evidence that any other Asian country in recent history has ever 
planned a direct military attack on Japan. On the contrary, historically the 
threat has been from Japan against continental Asia (through Korea), and 
not the other way around. The public statements of Washington's spokes- 
men have, of course, been full of Communist conspiracies, timetables, plans 
of world conquest. The Korean War, it was argued, was aimed at Japan, 
and there is no doubt that some American policymakers, particularly on the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff, actually believed this to be the case. Theoretically the 
Soviet Union in the postwar period has been capable of invading Japan, 
although this would require (1) extraordinarily complex mobilization of 
amphibious forces; and (2) that the Kremlin's leaders be insane. George 
Kennan, hardly one to think charitably of Soviet intentions, found no evi- 
dence to indicate that the Russians had "any intention to launch an outright 
military attack" against Japan at the time of the Korean War, and there has 
been no hard evidence to the contrary since. China, on the other hand, has 
never posed even the theoretical possibility of a conventional attack on 
Japan. As U. Alexis Johnson noted as late as 1970, "lacking air and over 
water transport, for their forces, the Chinese Communists do not now pose 
a direct conventional threat against Japan." This evaluation is widely 
accepted by virtually all American experts on Chinese military development, 
and it is furthermore now acknowledged that China has no military pro- 
grams underway to create a capability of offensive action against Japan. On 
the contrary, the Chinese military is almost exclusively oriented toward de- 
fense. Most postwar Japanese leaders, even in the conservative ranks, have 
always held this view — even in the early years of the cold war when it ran 
counter to the official U.S. line.^^ 

The United States maintains some 30,000 military personnel on 125 facilities 
covering 75,000 acres in Japan proper; as of September 1969 the Defense 
Department classified 40 of these bases as "major." In Okinawa after rever- 
sion the United States will maintain approximately 50,000 American service- 
men on eighty-eight military installations covering another 75,000 acres 
(26 percent of all the land on Okinawa). Yet none of these U.S. forces are 
directly concerned with the defense of Japan, and indeed — as noted by 
former White House and Pentagon adviser Morton Halperin — "none of the 
forces in our general purpose force structure are justified by the require- 
ments of the defense of Japan." 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 119 

The USSR could pose a nuclear threat to Japan, and China is presumedly 
now developing a modest capability of the same sort. Should a serious nu- 
clear strike against Japan actually take place, there would be little left for 
Japan to do (and little left of Japan's industrial heart), and the burden of 
response would fall upon U.S. nuclear retaliation. Extension of the U.S. 
nuclear shield to cover Japan thus presumedly deters such attack. However, 
U.S. bases in Japan are theoretically irrelevant to this deterrence since under 
the U.S. -Japan agreement nuclear weapons are excluded from Japan. And 
the United States has given flat assurances that there will be no nuclear 
weapons on Okinawa after reversion. -^'^ It is sometimes argued that the 
American nuclear guarantee to Japan means U.S. taxpayers are actually 
paying for Japan's defense. On the contrary, as Halperin notes, "The U.S. 
nuclear umbrella, which does protect Japan, would not be any smaller or 
any different if Japanese security were not one of its functions." 

Then what is the significance of American bases in Japan, and of Japan's 
steadily accelerating rearmament? First, in U. Alexis Johnson's words, "Our 
position in our facilities, bases in Japan as well as in Okinawa, are not so much 
related directly to the defense of Japan and Okinawa as they are to our ability to 
support our commitments elsewhere." More specifically: 

The bases and facilities provided by Japan under the provisions of the Treaty 
are especially important to our ability to maintain our commitments to the 
Republic of Korea and the Republic of China. Although we maintain no 
ground combat forces in Japan, our rear area logistics depots, the com- 
munications sites, the large and well equipped naval facilities and airfields, 
hospitals, and so on, have also been important factors in our ability to 
support and maintain our forces in Southeast Asia.^^ 

Simply put, the bases in Japan exist to support America's clients in "that whole 
part of the world": South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Vietnam, Laos, 
Cambodia, and Thailand. Even those military advisers who now see technological 
advances as permitting a substantial reduction in the U.S. forward position in 
Asia emphasize that access to the key air and naval bases in Japan must remain 
a bedrock of U.S. strategy.^^ The superdomino argument of the Pentagon Papers 
can easily be applied to explain how the use of Japan for commitments elsewhere 
is in the end a commitment to Japan: if the lesser clients fall, so eventually will 
the greater, and in the end the bases in Japan, in this view, do keep Japan safe 
for America. 

A second level of concern is why Japan, steadily remilitarizing since 1950 and 
already capable of its own conventional defense, is about to embark upon an 
entirely new level of military expansion. Here the official spokesmen of both the 
United States and Japan are naturally wary. They deny that Japan is attempting 
to develop the capability of military activity outside its borders. But at the same 
time the definition of those borders ("defense perimeter") is being dramatically 
revised. As described more fully in Section 6, this is precisely the implication of 
the 1969 Nixon-Sato communique. While hedging on the issue of Japanese troops 
abroad, the Nixon Administration has been frank and even boastful in explaining 
the price it exacted from Prime Minister Sato in return for the reversion of 
Okinawa: Sato's official statement ("quite a new stage of thinking in Japan," 
according to Johnson-^^) that henceforth Japan will regard its own security as 
inseparable from that of Korea and Taiwan. To students of Japanese history, 

120 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

this "new stage of thinking" has quite old and tangled roots, and immediately 
evokes Aritomo Yamagata's formulation of the "lines of sovereignty, lines of 
defense" concept in the 1890s, following which Japan lopped off Korea (the 
Japanese used German military advisers in those days). For students of con- 
temporary Japan, the 1969 communique calls to mind the "Three Arrows" 
scandal of 1965, in which secret Japanese military plans linking Japan and Korea 
were leaked to the public. Without access to broad U.S. and Japanese docu- 
mentation comparable to the Pentagon Papers, it is impossible to say what type 
of integrated contingency plans now exist for Northeast Asia. But it is absolutely 
unequivocable that a major change in public consciousness on this issue is now 
being effected: the "important thing that has taken place," Johnson told the 
Symington committee, is "that Japan is interested and involved in the defense of 
other areas." And in Halperin's words, "a further rearmament by the Japanese, 
if it were to make any sense, would have to be in the defense of other countries 
in Asia." 

The issues of bases in Japan and Japanese rearmament pose serious questions 
of military planning; these are fairly obvious. At another, more neglected level, 
however, these point to a simple and important fact: from the beginning of its 
modern experience, wars — real or imagined, its own or someone else's — have 
been the spur to economic growth and industrial take-off in Japan. Armaments 
were Japan's initial entree into the development of heavy industry in the nine- 
teenth century. The Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars of 1894-1895 and 
1904-1905 moved it into the stage of finance capital and continental economic 
expansion. World War I, the war of the others, provided the boom that propelled 
the industrial sector ahead of the agrarian, and shaped the giant combines. 
Mobilization for "total war" production in the 1930s pulled Japan out of the 
global depression. The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 turned a potentially 
disastrous depression deriving from the Dodge retrenchment policies into spec- 
tacular take-off, after orthodox economic policies had failed. The ravishment of 
another Asian country, Vietnam, heated a cooling Japanese economy from 1965. 
Even the ostensible exception — the eight-years' war of 1937-1945, which ended 
with Japan seemingly in ruins — in fact only proves the rule: for it appears now 
that much of Japan's postwar economic growth is directly attributable to gov- 
ernmental investment in equipment and technical education during the 1930s and 
1940s. "The Japanese economy," in Ronald Dore's words, "has thrived on war 
and the prospect of war." This has been as true in the postwar era as it was 
before 1945, and those who presently offer the "Japanese miracle" as a model to 
others offer a very deceptive product. Without a hundred years of actual or en- 
visioned war to fatten on, the Japanese economy would still be lean. 

Detailed examination of the role of war-related stimulation in postwar Japanese 
economic growth is extremely difficult, for the statistics involved are illusive, a 
large part of the relationship is indirect, and few scholars have attempted to come 
to grips with the problem. On the one hand it is possible to point to some fairly 
firm figures: between 1950-1960, the United States pumped a total of $6.12 
billion in military "special procurements" purchases into Japan, thus comprising 
the single most important impetus to postwar recovery.^i From 1946 to 1968 the 
United States provided some $1.07 billion in military aid to Japan and another 
$3.08 billion in economic aid; after repayments the net total was approximately 
$3.5 billion.'^^ In 1970, operating costs for the U.S. bases in Japan were estimated 
at $490 million annually; another $460 million went into support of U.S. facilities 
and personnel in Okinawa each year.^^ Estimates of "war profits" enjoyed by 
Japan in the post- 1965 Vietnam war boom vary greatly depending upon one's 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 121 

criteria of indirect war benefits, but generally appear to have been in the neigh- 
borhood of $1 billion annually.^^ But such figures barely touch the surface of the 
problem. They do not, for example, reveal the fact that U.S. aid to Japan in the 
1950s was so structured that the resurrection of Japan's defense industries, 
coupled with the reemergence of monopolistic control, became by U.S. design the 
key to Japan's economic recovery. The figures do not reveal the manner in 
which the United States bought Japanese acquiescence in the Pax Americana by 
carefully manipulating "non-military" international trade, aid, and monetary 
transactions to Japan's benefit. Similarly, the figures are inadequate when it comes 
to understanding how America's wars in Asia have benefited Japan by default, 
as ruinous military outlays drained the U.S. economy and in the process created 
new global markets for Japan. The military context of the Japanese economic 
penetration of Southeast Asia is likewise not apparent in the surface statistics — 
with its peculiarly cynical dimension of using war reparations to turn the savagery 
of Imperial Japan into a profitable new co-prosperity sphere for "peaceful" post- 
war Japan.46 

One of the more recent and intriguing examples of the subtle relationship 
between America's military policies and Japan's economic growth has been the 
Japanese economic penetration of South Korea and Taiwan (also Indonesia) be- 
ginning around 1964-1965. In certain respects the situation resembles a slightly 
distorted looking-glass version of moves a decade and a half earlier. Thus in 1950 
the Japanese economy was entering a severe depression; it was revitalized by the 
Korean War boom and remilitarization of Japan; and even before the war the 
United States had begun laying plans to lock Japan into an anti-Communist bloc 
with itself and Southeast Asia. In 1964-1965 the Japanese economy was cooling 
off; it was rekindled by the Vietnam war boom plus sudden economic access to 
Korea and Taiwan; and in fact, in anticipation of its escalation in Vietnam the 
United States appears to have worked behind the scenes to help Japan drive the 
opening wedge into the economies of its two former colonies. Washington's goals 
were transparent: as the United States prepared to divert enormous resources to 
an expanded war in Vietnam, only Japan had the capability of assuming part of 
the burden of shoring up the Park and Chiang regimes. Japan's post- 1965 trade 
and investment statistics vis-d-vis South Korea and Taiwan clearly indicate that 
for Japan it has once again been lucrative to operate in the shadows of other's 

The Pentagon Papers provide little information on the U.S. role in paving the 
way for Japan's rapid economic expansion into South Korea and Taiwan, al- 
though high U.S. officials such as William Bundy, Dean Rusk, and Walt Kostow 
visited Japan in quick succession during the crucial period in late 1964 and early 
1965 when the massive escalation of the Vietnam war was on the U.S. drawing 
boards. It is hardly likely that the sudden resolution of the Japan-ROK normaliza- 
tion talks which occurred shortly thereafter was purely coincidental, although 
it may well turn out that the leverage applied by the United States against the 
Koreans was most instrumental in paving the way to restoration of Korean- 
Japanese relations after more than a decade of bitter stalemate between the two 
countries; it was Korea, after all, which was letting the tiger into the house. The 
Papers do, however, provide an ironic sideHght on this period. At a meeting at 
the State Department in August 1963, Roger Hilsman "reported that there is a 
Korean study now underway on just how much repression the United States will 
tolerate before pulling out her aid" (Gravel ed., 11:742). The answer was appar- 
ently plenty, but from 1965 on an immense amount of U.S. "aid" to South Korea 
was actually directly related to ROK participation in the Vietnam war. Japanese 

122 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

assistance in shoring up Korean repression became increasingly urgent from this 
time, a fact recognized no matter what one's stand on the Vietnam escalation. 
Thus George Ball, in advancing his critique of America's Vietnam policy in July 
1965, stressed that Japan's role vis-a-vis South Korea would become even more 
imperative if the United States decided to seek a "compromise settlement" in 
South Vietnam: 

... if we stop pressing the Koreans for more troops to Vietnam (the 
Vietnamese show no desire for additional Asian forces since it affronts their 
sense of pride) we may be able to cushion Korean reactions to a compromise 
in South Vietnam by the provision of greater military and economic assist- 
ance. In this regard, Japan can play a pivotal role now that it has achieved 
normal relations with South Korea (Gravel ed., IV:619). 

The implications of Japan's new level of involvement in Northeast Asia under 
these conditions cut ominously toward the future. Immediate questions concern- 
ing the extent to which Japan's overwhelming economic leverage is already 
crippling economic independence in Taiwan and South Korea are compounded 
by serious long-range questions concerning the effects of this tight embrace upon 
the reunification of both of the divided countries. Such involvement has not 
alleviated repression; it has only fed corruption. And as Japan's economic stakes 
in the ex-colonies grow, the likelihood of committing Japanese troops to protect 
those stakes also increases. 

The overall Problematik implicit here is crucial. For the scholar and critic, 
such developments provide useful openings for an increased understanding of 
strategic planning, capitalism, and imperialism. For nonscholars — for the Japanese 
people and their neighbors more particularly — there are more urgent reasons that 
the system be comprehended, for the wars that may be will not be of the 
imaginary or miraculous variety. Those are about used up. 


Washington's decisionmakers have never been really certain whether or not to 
trust the Japanese, and if they couldn't why they shouldn't. This is hardly a rare 
phenomenon among potentially competitive nation states, and the racial differ- 
ences between the United States and Japan undoubtedly contribute to mutual 
suspicion. The "Asian mind," as Americans have never ceased to point out since 
they first encountered it, is "different" (Gravel ed., 111:685; IV: 182). And in the 
case of Japan, that "difference" is now coupled with power unprecedented in the 
history of Asia. 

The paradoxes implicit in the formal U.S. attitude toward Japan are not im- 
mediately apparent, but they are nonetheless most intriguing. On the surface, 
Japan has until fairly recently been one of official Washington's least problematic 
allies. The U.S. -Japan alliance has seemed relatively stable. Japan's ruling elites 
have displayed rather impeccable conservative, anti-Communist credentials. The 
thrust of the Japanese economy ostensibly has been toward capitalism and the 
capitalist bloc. No external military threat has confronted Japan, and the country 
is presumedly entering a period of prosperity and a placated citizenry. Since 1950 
Japan has allegedly been enjoying a great "free ride" at America's expense, and 
the "regionalism" and "multilateralism" of the Nixon Doctrine are supposed to 
work to the continued mutual advantage of both Japan and the United States. 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 123 

More specifically, particularly since 1964 the distribution of political power 
within Japan could not have been more fortunate from Washington's point of 
view. As it happened, U.S. escalation of the war in Indochina coincided with the 
premiership of Eisaku Sato, whose acquiescence to U.S. policy was until recently 
virtually total. Sato's biannual joint communiques with the American presidents 
(1965, 1967, 1969) read like State Department public relations releases on Viet- 
nam; his endorsement of the American line on China was so thorough that it 
split his own party (and in the end, with Nixon's reversal of China policy, left 
Sato without political face in Japan). On the surface, the Pentagon Papers sug- 
gest that the Kennedy and Johnson administrations had considerable confidence 
in their allies in Japan. Thus in November 1964, a month after he had visited 
Japan, William Bundy ventured the opinion that escalation of the war against 
North Vietnam would in fact be welcomed by Japan's leaders, although it might 
have unfortunate repercussions within Japan itself : 

The Japanese government, and considerable informed opinion in Japan, 
would be quietly pleased by the US action against the DRV. The Japanese 
government would probably attempt to stay fairly aloof from the question, 
however, for fear of provoking extreme domestic pressures or possible 
Chinese Communist action against Japan. In such process, the Japanese gov- 
ernment, especially one headed by Kono, might seek to restrict certain US 
base rights in Japan (Gravel ed., III:598).47 

By 1967, Japanese support of U.S. aggression in Asia had exceeded even Bundy's 
expectations, and he was expressing surprise that Japan, like Britain, "accepted 
our recent bombings with much less outcry than I, frankly, would have antici- 
pated" (Gravel ed., IV: 156). 

Yet even with the agreeable Mr. Sato on tap, and a postwar history of official 
Japanese endorsement of American policy in Asia, the inner record also reveals 
that U.S. policymakers have found many reasons for uncertainty concerning the 
stability of the alliance. In fact, it might be argued that the dominant impression 
conveyed by the Pentagon Papers is not that of confidence in the stability of the 
U.S. -Japan relationship, but on the contrary an almost paranoid fear that Japan 
could easily "go communist." Throughout the period covered in these documents 
(to 1968), Japan emerges in American eyes as an either/or country, capable of 
no constructive middle course between the Communist and capitalist camps — 
but fully capable, on the other hand, of swinging its weight behind the other side. 
Thus from the Truman through the Johnson administrations, the dominant fear 
expressed in the Pentagon Papers is that an American failure in Vietnam would 
drive Japan into an "accommodation with the Communist bloc," or into an in- 
evitably ominous relationship with Communist China. Even the "realistic" George 
Ball took essentially this position in 1965 in developing his critique of Vietnam 
policy : 

Japan is a much more complex case. If its confidence in the basic wisdom 
of the American policy can be retained, Japan may now be in the mood to 
take an increasingly active and constructive part in Asia. If, on the other 
hand, the Japanese think that we have basically misjudged and mishandled 
the whole Vietnam situation, they may turn sharply in the direction of 
neutralism, and even of accommodation and really extensive relationships 
with Communist China. Such action would not only drastically weaken 
Japan's ties with the U.S. and with the West, but would render the situation, 

124 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

particularly in Korea, extremely precarious. ... It is Ambassador Ray 
Shower's judgment that Japanese would be highly sensitive — partly on Asian 
racial grounds — to any bombing of Hanoi and presumably Haiphong. He 
concludes that such bombing would "have very damaging effects on the 
U.S./Japan relationship." 

As to the quest of the extent of U.S. ground forces, Ray Shower believes 
that from the standpoint of Japanese reaction, "We could further increase 
them even on a massive scale without too much further deterioration of 
public attitudes toward us. However, if this were to lead to a slackening of 
the South Vietnamese effort and a growing hostility on the part of the local 
population toward us, this would have catastrophic repercussions here in 
Japan. This is exactly what the Japanese fear may already be the situation, 
and if their fears were borne out in reality, there would be greatly increased 
public condemnation of our position. Even the Government and other sup- 
porters here would feel we had indeed got bogged down in a hopeless war 
against 'nationalism' in Asia. Under such circumstances it would be difficult 
for the government to resist demands that Japan cut itself loose as far as 
possible from a sinking ship of American policy in Asia" (Gravel ed., 

Four general and often paradoxical areas of concern can help illuminate the 
American uncertainty concerning Japan. First, and most obviously, the fear of 
"losing Japan" is based upon arguments of economic pressure. It is a familiar 
cliche that "Japan must trade to live"; moreover, Japan's continued economic 
growth will depend upon expanded trade. Should the present patterns which tie 
it into the web of world capitalism be disrupted, then Japan will be forced to 
seek alternative economic relations. In the particular focus of the Pentagon 
Papers, loss of access to Southeast Asia (or the failure of the area to develop 
rapidly enough to meet Japan's needs) will inevitably place pressure on Japan to 
move toward increased "accommodations" with non-capitalist countries. Also, 
despite the immense economic relationship which has developed between Japan 
and the United States in the postwar period, American leaders in fact have 
evinced lack of confidence in the stability of this relationship. On the one hand, 
for example, it is stated that the economic ties between the two countries are 
"natural" and beneficial for both parties — and, on the other hand, that there ex- 
ists no comparable potential for Japan in the direction of economic ties with 
China. As U. Alexis Johnson argued before the Symington committee, China 
offers Japan neither the markets nor raw materials it needs. Moreover: 

. . . the history of trade indicates that as countries develop the greatest 
trade develops between developed countries, and when I was in Japan I was 
struck by the fact that when the Japanese use the first person plural "we" 
more often than not they were talking about "we, the developed countries, 
Japan, the United States, and Western Europe." They find their interests and 
their problems in rough terms parallel with the interests of the developed 

Yet no such firm faith can be found in the policy papers of the American govern- 
ment. Despite the theory of the naturalness of capitalist relations; despite the im- 
mensity of Japan's present interlock with the United States in particular; and 
without necessarily even postulating military pressure on Japan — the basic U.S. 
position of Japan as the superdomino clearly was premised upon an almost 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 125 

totalistic view of Japan's economic complementariness to the "communist bloc," 
the ease with which it might simply detach itself from the global capitalist economy 
and "disappear" behind the Iron (or Bamboo) Curtain. Is Japan's heavy reliance 
upon the United States as a source for primary products really "natural"? Will the 
American market for Japanese exports continue to grow despite increasing do- 
mestic pressures for protectionist legislation against Japan? Is the potential for 
mutually beneficial economic relations between Japan and China (and other non- 
capitalist countries) really as limited as U.S. spokesmen publicly allege? In prac- 
tice, American policy toward Japan appears to have been undercut by substantial 
uncertainty on such matters, bordering at times on paranoia. 

Secondly, beginning around the mid-1960s, the economic concern became 
compounded by concern over American "credibility" in Japan — that is, it was 
recognized that Japan's consistent official endorsement of U.S. policy does not 
necessarily carry with it either agreement or respect, and may reach a breaking 
point. This observation was undoubtedly valid, and three observations may help 
put it in perspective: (1) There was no reason for U.S. officials to anticipate that 
Japan would indefinitely pretend a sense of "obligation" to the United States, 
for the simple reason that the United States has never done anything for Japan 
that it did not believe to be in the American interest. Even Secretary of State 
Dean Rusk did not romanticize this point. Fittingly enough, the Gravel edition 
of the Pentagon Papers concludes with a flat repudiation by Rusk of the popular 
conceit of "American benevolence" in Asia: 

Now, the basis for these alliances that we made in the Pacific was that the 
security of those areas was vital to the security of the United States. We did 
not go into these alliances as a matter of altruism, to do someone else a 
favor. We went into them because we felt that the security of Australia and 
the United States, New Zealand and the United States, was so interlinked 
that we and they ought to have an alliance with each other, and similarly 
with the other alliances we have in the Pacific, as with the alliance in NATO. 
So that these alliances themselves rest upon a sense of the national security 
interests of the United States and not just on a fellow feeling for friends in 
some other part of the world.^^ 

Certainly there was no reason to expect the Japanese themselves to think other- 
wise. (2) As indicated earlier, Japan was integrated into America's Asia in the 
1950s only under considerable pressure at a time when Japan was essentially 
powerless. The details of this early period have not yet been fully studied, but 
some of the complexity of the situation can be suggested by looking at the posi- 
tion of Shigeru Yoshida, usually characterized as an archconservative and Amer- 
ica's man-in-Japan. In fact, the record indicates that Yoshida opposed the United 
States on the most fundamental issues of this period, namely the repressive 
economic policies of the Dodge Plan, isolation of China, military strings attached 
to U.S. aid, and rapid rearmament of Japan. The issues of Japanese remilitariza- 
tion, U.S. bases in Japan and Okinawa, and Japanese acquiescence in the general 
U.S. line on China and Asia never had unanimous support even among Japanese 
conservatives, and Yoshida's ouster from the premiership in December 1954 
came about to a large extent because of internal disagreements within Japan on 
such issues. By the mid-1960s, this had been exacerbated by opposition within 
conservative ranks to the U.S. war policy in Vietnam. (3) By the mid-1960s 
Japan was — and it seemed to occur suddenly — entering the "superpower" cate- 
gory. That is, the underpinnings of American credibility in Asia were being chal- 

126 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

lenged at the very moment that it became recognized Japan no longer could be 
treated as a mere dependent power. Sato as an individual undoubtedly found 
himself more comfortable in the familiar role of subordinate, but it was increas- 
ingly and painfully obvious that the Japanese state was entering a period of un- 
precedented strength at the very moment the United States was plummeting to 
a postwar nadir. 

A third element of uncertainty was the uncomfortable recognition on the part 
of U.S. officials that in addition to its internal splits, the Japanese ruling class as 
a whole does not reflect the view of the majority of Japanese people — particularly 
insofar as support of American policy is concerned. The Ball memorandum cited 
above is fairly typical in its distinction between the Japanese "government" and 
the Japanese "public." Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara voiced a similar 
grudging appreciation of the potential political potency of popular anti-American 
sentiments in Japan: 

The price paid for improving our image as a guarantor has been damage 
to our image as a country which eschews armed attacks on other nations. 
. . . The objection to our "warlike" image and the approval of our fulfilling 
our commitments competes in the minds of many nations (and individuals) 
in the world, producing a schizophrenia. Within such allied countries as 
UK and Japan, popular antagonism to the bombings per se, fear of escala- 
tion, and belief that the bombings are the main obstacle to negotiation, have 
created political problems for the governments in support of US policy 
(Gravel ed., IV:54). 

Just as the ambiguous U.S. position on the prospects of Sino-Japanese relations 
raises the question of how great the potential economic ties between the two 
countries actually may be, so also in this case the American attitude raises the 
issue of how great the potential for radical mass political action has actually been 
in postwar Japan. Many American sociologists and historians of Japan have 
tended to minimize the possibility of effective political action from below in Japan 
by pointing to the traditional structures of authoritarianism and hierarchy to 
which most Japanese remain fundamentally acquiescent. But at the same time, 
looking not to scholarship but to the views held by practicing politicians, one 
finds in countless quarters a pervasive fear of the "revolutionary" potential of the 
Japanese masses. Such fear is in fact a potent theme in prewar as well as postwar 
Japan — one which has received little scholarly attention as yet, although primary 
documentation is voluminous in Japanese, American, and British sources. It was 
unquestionably greatly exacerbated by the extraordinary vigor of the popular 
lower and middle-class movements which burst into the political scene in the 
immediate postwar years in Japan and were repressed only by the reverse course 
in occupation policy. George Kennan's Memoirs offer a vivid example of Amer- 
ican fear of leftist insurrection in postwar Japan, and the primary mission of the 
resurrected postwar military establishment (like the Meiji army of the 1870s) 
originally was suppression of internal threats to Japan. Mass action culminating 
in the Security Treaty crisis of 1960, which forced cancellation of President 
Eisenhower's visit to Japan, and the dramatic Japanese street demonstrations of 
the late 1960s, could be taken as reconfirmation of these fears. Neither Sato's 
accommodating manner nor the sociologists' reassuring patterns of submissive 
behavior could entirely dispel the nagging U.S. fear that the relationship it had 
so carefully knitted with the conservative ruling classes in Japan might not in 
fact be unravelled from the left within Japan itself. 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 127 

This perspective helps explain the NSC position in May 1951 that insofar as 
postoccLipation Japan was concerned, it was imperative that the United States 
"establish appropriate programs designed to further orient the Japanese toward 
the free world and away from communism." The same fear also underlies the 
broad and subtle brand of cultural imperialism which American officials and 
scholars have pursued in Japan, particularly since 1960. The Asia sections of the 
influential Conlon Report, issued in November 1959, were written by one of 
America's most articulate hawks and best-known Japan specialists, Robert 
Scalapino, and called among other things for American "diplomacy in depth." 
For those interested in the scholar/government symbiosis as manifested in U.S.- 
Japanese relations, a potentially fascinating study remains unexplored here. For 
it was at this juncture that Edwin O. Reischauer of Harvard was appointed 
ambassador to Japan, with the self-described mission of opening a "dialogue" 
with that country. And it was at the scholarly Hakone Conference of 1960 that 
American Japan specialists initiated the "modernization theory" focus which has 
subsequently dominated U.S. scholarship on Japan and has been, at root, an 
attempt to present Japan as a nonrevolutionary, anti-Marxist model of develop- 
ment. The goal has been to undercut both the activist and academic left in Japan, 
and Japanese journals throughout the 1960s contain a heavy array of articles in 
Japanese by American scholars engaged in this task of "diplomacy in depth." 

Finally, however, it must be recognized that the concerns outlined above are 
not self-contained and really become meaningful only when they are placed in a 
broader, more theoretical (and more illusive) context. Namely this: that when 
one views the world from a liberal or quasi-liberal perspective, the distinctions 
between the political left and political right become blurred. Under vague rubrics 
such as "totalitarianism," the archconservative and the Communist on the surface 
may appear to offer little to choose between — except, perhaps, insofar as their 
foreign policies are concerned. Ostensibly they will hold opposing attitudes 
toward private property and competition — but what is one to say in the case of 
a zaibatsu-conixoWQd economy? How is one to evaluate the close mesh of govern- 
ment and business in Japan? And whether the Japanese masses have revolutionary 
potential or are traditionally submissive, doesn't either imply an easy susceptibility 
to Communist control? 

These are practical, not merely academic questions, and in the final analysis 
they are probably the key to understanding why American policymakers have 
been so consistently fearful of a totalistic Japanese "accommodation to commu- 
nism." Having resurrected and nurtured the political right in postwar Japan, they 
were faced with the question of how far right the Japanese would move before 
they became, potentially, "left." In this sense, subsequent American administra- 
tions caught the whiplash of the reverse course of the occupation period: that is, 
they could never be certain that they had not cut the early reform policies off 
too early, and too close to the root. It is, on the surface, unreasonable to assume 
that a Communist Southeast Asia would knock a powerful, anti-Communist 
Japan almost entirely into the "Communist camp" — but it is not entirely irrational 
to believe that a fundamentally authoritarian Japan would, if somewhat pressed, 
find few bars to seeking an accommodation with other "authoritarian" countries. 

This line of analysis gains credence from the fact that both Japanese and 
American politicians and policymakers faced it squarely at various points. This 
issue became, it should be noted, of absolutely central concern in Japan from the 
late 1930s up to 1945; the heart of the "peace" movement in wartime Japan, as 
evidenced most dramatically in the famous Konoe Memorial of February 1945, 
was the fear that the war was leading to the "communization" of Japan, pri- 

128 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 

marily in the form of "right-wing communism," and even "emperor commu- 
nism." ^- Again — a prewar example with postwar implications — Kishi, certainly 
the most reactionary of Japan's postwar prime ministers, was in the prewar period 
accused of Communist sympathies because of his interest in National Socialism. 
It was precisely this "rightist/leftist" problem which underlay the position ad- 
vanced by the NSC in 1949 and reproduced at some length here in Section 3. 
No other U.S. document now available on Japan sets the problem down so 
clearly, and this must certainly be judged the most valuable of the Pentagon 
Papers insofar as an understanding of this dimension of the postwar U.S.-Japan 
relationship is concerned. Overarching all other apprehensions concerning Japan's 
reliability as an ally — economic pressure, U.S. credibility, revolutionary potential 
within Japan — was the broad structure of "totalitarian" conceptualization, the 
question of how far right is left.^^ 


SENATOR SYMINGTON: "Well, one final question. Is it true that the 
less we do in Vietnam, the more they approve our policies in the Far East?" 

SENATOR SYMINGTON: "I am trying to follow your logic." 

MR. JOHNSON: "Let me put it this way: They do not want to see us 
lose in Vietnam. At the same time, they do not want to see us do things that 
they feel carry with them the danger of our being drawn into a larger war 
and in turn — " 

SENATOR SYMINGTON: So militarily speaking, they do not want us 
to lose, but they do not want us to win." 

MR. JOHNSON: "Well, you could express it that way." 
SENATOR SYMINGTON: "It is a mystery to me what has been going 
on out there during the past 5 years. I am glad to see it is a little complicated 
to you also, because you have seen more of the inside than I." 

— testimony of U. Alexis Johnson, 
former U.S. ambassador to Japan, 
January 1970^4 

The question "where is Japan going" has really occurred to most Americans 
only in the period subsequent to that covered in the Pentagon Papers, that is, 
primarily during the Nixon Administration. It derives, to begin with, from the 
new superpower image of Japan and the unexpectedly anti-Japanese actions taken 
by Nixon in handling economic policy and China relations. At a deeper level it 
reflects a significantly new stage in Japan's economic and military development; 
a new, still uncertain level of nationalistic consciousness in Japan; and the open 
emergence of serious contradictions in the U.S.-Japan relationship. 

It is of central importance to note the timing of the new stage, and in particular 
the compression of the timing. For the bulk of the postwar period, Japan has 
undeniably been a second-class member in America's Asia. For several decades 
it has been forced to nurse substantial wounds of pride, because the "lackey" 
image assigned it in Communist polemics unfortunately rings true.^^ In Senator 
Symington's eyes, for example, Japan in 1970 still remained "a conquered na- 
tion, an occupied nation." And thus, from the Japanese perspective, the roles 
of "superpower" and "subordinate" have coalesced or overlapped. The grooves 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 129 

of the long unequal relationship with the United States run deep and are not 
easy to depart from, but the friction in those grooves is heating up. 

From the American perspective this coalescence is also true, but the am- 
bivalence is further compounded by another point of timing: the sudden recog- 
nition in the mid-1960s that Japan is the most dynamically expanding power in 
Asia (if not the world) coincided with the recognition that the United States, on 
the contrary, is a power in disarray, and certainly a waning Pacific power. Thus 
at the very moment that Japan approached the level the United States had sup- 
posedly always wanted (the capacity for major military and economic activity 
in non-Communist Asia), many Americans discovered that perhaps they had 
not wanted this after all. The wedding of the superdomino and superpower 
images, in short, produced not a super-ally but a superthreat in the view of 
many. Or, in the more neutral jargon of the political scientist, it might be argued 
that in its relationship with Japan the United States has apparently moved di- 
rectly from a friendship among unequals to an "adversary friendship," without 
ever having been able to sustain even temporarily an interlude of amicable 

As a result, since the period covered by the Pentagon Papers the stereotyped 
apprehension of a Japanese accommodation to the Communist bloc has been 
replaced by other alarming visions — notably fear of a militarily resurgent Japan 
and premonitions of a global trade war between the United States and Japan (in 
which Japan is most often conceded ultimate victory) or the Japanese creation 
of an independent and autarkic yen bloc in Asia.^''' These more current appre- 
hensions are not necessarily consistent with the traditional fear of a "Red" 
Japan, but that is of little solace to America's uneasy political and economic 
leaders. Nor are these fears really new. As early as 1949, the NSC cautioned 
that "in the course of time a threat of domination [of Asia] may come from 
such nations as Japan, China, or India, or from an Asiatic bloc," and indeed 
virtually all of the world warned the United States of this possibility when it 
unilaterally decided to set Japan upon the reverse course. In the exigencies of 
daily policy, however, this caution was thrown to the winds, and the United 
States devoted itself to encouraging not only Japan's remilitarization and eco- 
nomic penetration of Southeast Asia, South Korea, and Taiwan, but also the 
suppression within Japan of outspoken opposition to such policies. The question 
is no longer what the United States has sown, but what Japan, Asia, and the 
world will reap. 

Insofar as U.S. attitudes are concerned, as the decade of the 1970s opened, 
the Japanese, somewhat to their surprise, discovered that in conforming to U.S. 
postwar policy for Asia they had uhimately aroused American hostility and dis- 
trust. In August 1971, in the midst of the economic and diplomatic "Nixon 
shocks," the Japanese Foreign Ministry prepared a memorandum for use in 
government and business circles in Japan, summarizing American complaints. 
The document, subsequently made available in English, concluded with this sum- 
mation of the "General Image of Japan arising out of the above-mentioned 

( 1 ) As to Japan as a Country 

A. Japan is a strange country whose attitudes can't be measured by 
standards valid in America and Europe and therefore Americans can't 
but conclude that Japan is a country whose statements and actions it 
is impossible for Americans to interpret reliably. 

130 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

B. Japan is ungrateful for the U.S.'s generosity and help to Japan after 
the War. 

C. Japan is pursuing her ambition to become the No. 1 country in 
the world and her people are all united in this purpose, without re- 
flecting on the consequences of their actions to others. 

D. Japan is extremely self-centered and insular-minded. She does not 
understand the spirit of mutuality or fair-play either in the field of 
politics or in that of economics. 

E. Envy of Japan's success. (On the other hand there are some people 
saying that they should learn from Japan.) 

(2) As to Japanese Companies and People 

A. They are determinedly working to increase their share of the world's 
markets and are quite willing to accept very small profit margins in 
order to do this. 

B. They are arrogant (too self-conscious of Japan's being a major 

C. Japanese work always in groups and they work very hard even at 
the sacrifice of their private lives. 

D. They are very difficult people to understand. Many prominent poli- 
ticians and businessmen seem to make a habit of breaking promises, 
and being inconsistent in their words and actions, and are two-faced. 
Therefore Japanese are unreliable. 

E. The Japanese are hated by the people of Southeast Asian countries 
as "ugly Japanese." Japanese are unable to understand the spirit of 

By far the greatest part of the Foreign Ministry's document dealt with com- 
plaints concerning Japanese economic practices. The American grievances were 
broken down as follows: (1) invasion of the American market as a result of 
Japan's export drive (with specific mention of Japan's extremely favorable bal- 
ance of trade with the United States, and of particular resentments over textiles, 
electronics, steel, and autos); (2) Japanese export practices and "system" 
(dumping, the "double price system for domestic and foreign markets," unique 
labor conditions, low wages, unique investment and borrowing practices); (3) 
Japanese import restrictions (tariff manipulation, duties and quotas, the import 
deposit system); (4) capital liberalization (ceilings and restrictions on foreign 
investment in Japan); (5) limitations on foreign exchange transactions (par- 
ticularly in short-term capital transactions and government ordinances restricting 
trade); (6) governmental intervention in both trade and capital transactions 
(through "administrative guidance," manipulation of licenses, discourtesy to 
foreign businessmen, etc.); (7) the "Japan Inc." nexus of government-private 
business collusion (including export targets, tax relief, subsidies, loose anti-trust 
laws, etc.); (8) criticisms of Japan's economic policy in general (lack of co- 
operation in yen revaluation, no assistance to the United States in solving its 
balance of payments problem, niggardly and self-serving aid programs, lack of 
concern with environmental pollution or consumer protection); (9) natural re- 
sources (depletion of natural resources such as coal, timber, or various forms of 
marine life); (10) "other criticisms" (attempts to exclude American banks, and 
"copying foreign machinery and components for atomic reactors" ) .^^ 

The Foreign Ministry list is without question a thorough summary of Amer- 
ican resentment concerning Japanese economic practices. What it fails to convey, 
however, is a sense of the doomsday rhetoric actually used by these American 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 131 

critics. The task of disseminating this has been undertaken by Senator Strom 
Thurmond, among others, who as one of the leaders of the anti-Japan movement 
in the United States frequently introduces into the Congressional Record materials 
containing passages such as the following (from a speech to an Atlanta audience) : 

The economic challenge posed by Japan — and I suggest that you think 
of Japan as a single, giant company under centraHzed direction — is the 
gravest economic challenge this country has ever faced. 

Here in Atlanta, I am reminded of Henry Grady's famous speech about 
the Georgia man who died and was buried in a Northern-made suit, in a 
grave dug by a Northern-made shovel and laid to rest under a piece of 
stone from the North. Georgia's only contribution was the corpse and the 
hole in the ground. Well, it is not an exaggeration to say that our entire 
country is likely to approach that situation by the end of the 1970s, with 
Japan in the role of the North, unless there is a change in national policy. 
I can envision a grave dug by a Japanese-made power shovel, a body clad 
in Japanese textiles, and a hearse made by a Japanese auto-maker.^^ 

This sense of economic war with Japan, moreover, has obviously influenced the 
Nixon Administration: in October 1970, the United States actually threatened 
to resolve the textile dispute by recourse to legislation in the Trading with the 
Enemy Act.^^ 

The Nixon Administration's poHcy toward Japan is, however, complex, for 
while aligning with the anti-Japan economic bloc in the United States and ac- 
cording the Japanese shabby diplomatic consideration in the China issue, the 
Nixon Doctrine for Asia strongly emphasizes that Japan is destined to become 
America's primary partner in (1) the economic development, and (2) military 
security activities, in Asia.^^ As the statement by Secretary of State Rogers at 
the beginning of Section 4 indicates, official American policy remains the en- 
couragement of continued mihtarization by Japan. Such rearmament, it is argued, 
is essential for the expanded role Japan must eventually play as a participant 
in "regional security" in Asia; and there exists no danger it will get out of hand. 
In 1953 Nixon, then Vice-President, was the first high U.S. official to publicly 
attack the "no war" clause in the Japanese constitution, and his position on Japa- 
nese military development remains essentially unchanged today. The Nixon 
Administration, like its postwar predecessors, desires a Japanese military estab- 
lishment capable of action beyond Japan's borders. Even more, there have been 
strong indications that some members of the Nixon Administration, particularly 
Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, have actually encouraged Japan to develop 
nuclear capability .^^ 

The sanguine view of Japan's postwar "pacifism" which enables Washington 
to regard Japanese remilitarization as low risk has proven increasingly unpersua- 
sive both within the United States and throughout the world. The counsel for the 
Symington committee attempted (with little success) to pose this issue in the 
1970 hearings on U.S. commitments to Japan: 

You pointed out they have a growing military budget, we noted the 
tremendous election victory of Prime Minister Sato, and the current de- 
cline of the Socialist Party with their views on unarmed neutrality. General 
McGehee pointed out that Japan has less and less of the nuclear allergy 
which we have known her to have over the years. They have volunteered 

132 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

for a peacekeeping role in Southeast Asia. They have a missile capability, 
and one commentator ventures a prediction that they will have a missile in 
being. They have been slower to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty than 
we thought, and you pointed out, Mr. Secretary [Undersecretary of State 
U. Alexis Johnson], this was in part due to a desire to keep open their 
options. There are other evidences of a reawakening nationalism in Japan. 
On the basis of this recitation, do we understand Japan's intended role in 
the Far East as well as we think we do? 

Blunter assessments of the situation have emanated from Congressional bodies 
such as the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. A "Report of Special Study 
Mission to Asia" issued by this committee in April 1970, for example, reached 
this conclusion concerning the thrust of military thinking in present-day Japan: 

There is a strong effort underway by some groups in Japan toward re- 
armament and a seeming return to the old "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity . 
Sphere." The study mission was concerned with the increased emphasis by 
some on enlarging Japan's military prowess, even though it already supports j 
the sixth largest military establishment in the world. I 

While the Japanese Constitution, by limiting its forces to island defense, ' 
does provide certain basic restrictions on rearming, this constitutional pro- 
vision can be circumvented by broadening the definition of Japan's defensive 
perimeter. In fact, obviously concerned about maintaining a steady flow of 
Mideast oil to Japanese industry, some in Japan now consider its area of | 
defense reaches to where oil shipments must traverse, the Straits of Malacca. 

Prime Minister Sato recently sounded the call to Japan's new militarism 
when he said: "It is clear that the (Japanese) people are no longer satisfied 
with a merely negative pacifism aiming only at the country's safety." 

The study mission was told that Japan has decided it does not want to 
remain miUtarily dependent upon the United States. No one can dispute 
this aim, however far they look beyond this premise. Authoritative Japanese 
officials have stated that efforts be advanced to accomplish the total with- 
drawal of American forces from Japan (not merely Okinawa) within this 

The Prime Minister, according to information made available to the 
study mission, interpreted his recent reelection as a mandate to proceed 
with significant military expansion. 

Japan has been spending 1 percent of its GNP for arms. With an annual 
25 [sic} percent increase in the GNP, Japan's expenditures for military 
equipment will double every 4 years. In addition we have learned it is now 
recommended that 2 percent of GNP be devoted to defense spending — 
geometrically increasing Japan's military power. Is this not a return to the 
Bushido of old Japan? 

The study mission must also state that Japan is reported to possess an 
advanced nuclear capability and will soon have the delivery systems for 
nuclear weapons. Although Japan did recently sign the nuclear non-prolifera- 
tion treaty we were made to understand that ratification could be put off 

In our discussions it was indicated that Japan intends to become the 
great seapower once again, to "protect" its trade routes. This, too, has 
ominous overtones. 

Placing this aspect of our report in perspective, the study mission evi- 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 133 

dences concern over Japan's emphasis on the new militarism. There seems 
to be a readiness to commit a substantial portion of Japan's vast wealth to 
the reestablishment of a major international military force. This involves 
increased spending, a much broader definition of her area of defense, nuclear 
capability and a clear determination to be a military power on a scale not 
contemplated since World War II. 

... In still another area, we were impressed by the renewed popularity 
in Japan of the old line that "Korea is a daggar pointed at the heart of 

This is actually part of a broader effort to give the widest possible defini- 
tion to Japan's perimeter for defense under the terms of its constitution. 
The area that Japan now seems to consider within its immediate area of 
defense extends from Korea through the Straits of Malacca.^^ 

The specter of resurgent Japanese militarism has naturally been most alarming 
to the People's Republic of China. Indeed, beginning around 1969, it became 
clear that China's leaders had come to regard Japanese militarism as a potential 
threat to their security surpassed if at all only by that of the Soviet Union. This 
represented a profound change in the Chinese world view: for while the relation- 
ship between Japanese remilitarization and the U.S. security system was still 
acknowledged, Japan by itself was for the first time in the postwar period seen 
as potentially more dangerous to China than the United States. This change be- 
came generally known to the American public only several years later, primarily 
through the interviews which Chou En-lai gave to the Committee of Concerned 
Asian Scholars (July 1971) and James Reston (August 1971). In these inter- 
views Chou stressed, first, that Japanese military expansion in Asia was inevitable 
given the "lopsided" nature of postwar Japanese economic development; and 
second, that concrete developments in Japan confirmed the more theoretical 
assumption : 

. . . And so this lopsided development of Japan, what will issue from it? 
She needs to carry out an economic expansion abroad. Otherwise, she can- 
not maintain her economy. And so, being in a capitalist system, following 
this economic expansion, there is bound to come with it military expansion. 
Isn't that so? And so, precisely because of that, the fourth defense plan is 
from 1972 to 1976, and they plan to spend more than $16 billion. About 
the total amount of military expenditures of Japan after the Second World 
War to 1971, the first three defense plans, was only a bit over $10 billion. 
And some American senators [sic], after visiting Japan, reported that this 
fourth Japanese defense plan exceeded the requirements of Japan for self- 

And according to the present economic capacity of Japan, she does not 
require five years to carry out this fourth plan. As we see it, they may be 
able to fulfill it in only two or two-and-a-half years. And in this way, it's 
all further proof that the appetite, the ambitions are becoming much greater. 
And so they are thinking not only of having up-to-date equipment, but also 
thinking of manufacturing nuclear weapons themselves. Now Japan is al- 
ready cooperating with the United States and Australia in building a nuclear 
reactor and nuclear power, and Japan is already able to manufacture guided 
missiles, ground-to-air and ground-to-ground guided missiles without a nu- 
clear warhead. So the only problem remaining is how to manufacture a 
nuclear warhead to put on these missiles. So there does exist this danger.^"^ 

134 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 

Chou also pointed out the interrelationship between Japanese economic growth 
and the Korea, Vietnam, and Indochina wars; the particularly dangerous aspects 
of Japanese involvement in South Korea and Taiwan; and the contradictory ele- 
ments of competition/cooperation in the Nixon policy toward Japan. His re- 
marks, however, still failed to convey a sense of the detailed and specific analysis 
of trends in Japan which underlies the current Chinese fear. The Chinese press 
has dealt with this problem at length, and apart from its distinctive vocabulary, 
the analysis which it has provided in fact represents a fairly comprehensive sum- 
mary of the concerns voiced also by non-Chinese observers. A nine-point critique 
published in both Renmin Ribao (People's Daily) and Jiefangjun Bao (Libera- 
tion Army Daily) on September 3, 1970, aptly draws together these concerns: 
(1) "Several zaibatsu which used to be the behind-the-scene bosses of the Japa- 
nese fascist 'military headquarters' have already staged a come-back" (a recog- 
nition of the military-industrial complex which has been built up in Japan under 
the U.S.-Japan security agreements) ; (2) "Japanese militarism has been rearmed" 
(it is pointed out that the Japanese military now numbers 280,000 men, close to 
the force level maintained just prior to the Japanese attack on China in the 
1930s; also that there is a preponderance of active officers, numerous reserve 
officers, and expansive military plans for the future); (3) "The militarist forces 
have again taken a grip on the military and political power in Japan" (notation 
of the dominance of prewar figures in both the Sato cabinet and officer corps); 
(4) "Japan's ruling clique is pushing ahead with accelerated pace the fascistiza- 
tion of its political system" (police expansion to beyond the prewar level, plus 
reactionary legislation); (5) "Japanese monopoly capital has been frenziedly 
carrying out expansion and aggression abroad" (statistics on Japanese economic 
expansion throughout Asia); (6) "Japanese militarism has openly placed our 
territory Taiwan Province and Korea within its sphere of influence" (quotations 
from the 1969 Nixon-Sato communique); (7) "The Japanese militarists actively 
serve as U.S. imperialism's 'gendarmes in Asia' and 'overseers' of slaves in a 
futile attempt to re-dominate Asia by taking this opportunity" (reference to 
military collusion with South Korea and Taiwan under the U.S.-Japan security 
treaty, plus counterrevolutionary alliances such as ASP AC, the Asian and Pacific 
Council); (8) "The Japanese militarists try hard to find excuses for sending 
troops abroad" ("life-line" rhetoric, talk of defending the Straits of Malacca); 
and (9) "The Japanese ruling circles energetically create counter-revolutionary 
public opinion for a war of aggression" (resurgence of military themes in the 
mass media, textbooks, organizations devoted to restoring the "bushido" spirit, 
etc.). 68 

Distrust of Japan runs deep through all of Asia, and is based on vivid recollec- 
tion of the brutal realities of Japan's earlier quest for "coexistence and copros- 
perity." Americans easily forget that the United States suffered least among par- 
ticipants in the Pacific War — that indeed the Japanese had kifled some 2 million 
Chinese before Pearl Harbor. Thus bland assurances that Japan has learned its 
lesson meet understandable disbelief in Asia. But more concretely, it is possibly 
to point to three recent official documents, all supported by the United States, 
which appear to give firm substance to the fear that Japan has indeed entered 
an entirely new level of military expansion: the Nixon-Sato communique of 
November 1969, which paved the way for the U.S.-Japan agreement on the 
reversion of Okinawa; and the Defense Agency White Paper and Fourth Defense 
Plan of Japan, issued on successive days in October 1970. 

U.S. spokesmen have pointed with pride to the "new" military commitments 
agreed upon by the Japanese in the 1969 communique, namely "that Japan is 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 135 

interested and involved in the defense of other areas." Specifically, as explained 
by U. Alexis Johnson: (1) "you have for the first time in an official Japanese 
Government statement, the recognition that the security of Japan is related to 
the peace and security of the Far East"; (2) you "have the specific reference to 
Korea, in which the flat statement is made that the security of the Republic of 
Korea is essential to Japan's own security"; (3) again for the first time, it is 
stated by the Japanese "that the maintenance of peace and security in the Taiwan 
area is also a most important factor for the security of Japan"; (4) Prime Min- 
ister Sato agreed that Japan would consider participating in an international peace- 
keeping force in Indochina after conclusion of hostilities; (5) in connection with 
the projected reversion of Okinawa, Japan assumed responsibility for "a further 
geographic extension" of military forces by moving Japanese military personnel 
to that island; (6) Japan for the first time acknowledged its interest in par- 
ticipating in the postwar rehabilitation of Indochina (meaning primarily con- 
tinued aid to anti-communist regimes In addition, in the months following 
the Nixon-Sato communique it became widely acknowledged that Japanese of- 
ficials did in fact see the Straits of Malacca as part of their strategic "lifeline," 
within their drastically expanded "defense perimeter." 

The 1969 joint communique represented Japan's part of the bargain for the 
reversion of Okinawa to Japanese administrative control. This reversion was to 
have been Sato's crowning political achievement, but it now appears that he may 
in fact have made Japan even more vulnerable to embroilment in American 
military adventures in Asia. The United States has ostensibly given up use of 
Okinawa as a nuclear and CBW arsenal, but this is only a minor inconvenience. 
The single strongest point made by all U.S. civilian and military representatives 
who testified on the reversion before Congress was that this in no substantial way 
altered the U.S. base structure in Okinawa. And at the same time, the United 
States has interpreted the terms of the reversion and the 1969 communique as 
meaning "Our theoretical action with respect to our bases in Japan is enlarged." '^'^ 
The latter point, a subtle twist, derives from the American position that Sato's 
agreement to the new, broad definition of Japanese security in effect gives the 
United States greater freedom to use its bases in Japan (as in Okinawa) for 
action in Korea and Taiwan, since it is now officially agreed that this would 
represent "defense of Japan." (The Chinese describe this as the " 'Okinawaniza- 
tion' of Japan proper." "'^) Thus it would appear that the price Sato payed for 
his Okinawa plum included not only moving the Japanese military a stage closer 
to dispatch abroad, but also relinquishing some of the "prior consultation" lever- 
age Japan had hitherto held concerning U.S. use of its bases in Japan. Through 
the Okinawa reversion trade-off, the United States thus gained both a freer hand 
in Japan and a helping in Northeast Asia and possibly elsewhere as well. Japan 
gained administrative rights over Okinawa, a new level of rearmament, a dras- 
tically enlarged military mission, and better odds of becoming militarily involved 
over Korea or Taiwan in the future. 

The White Paper and Fourth Defense Plan, issued under the facile Yashuhiro 
Nakasone, then head of the Defense Agency, were aimed at creating the psy- 
chological and material militarism necessary to fill this expanded perimeter. The 
former, unprecedented in postwar Japan, was fundamentally directed toward the 
creation of a patriotic "defense consciousness" among the Japanese. Amidst 
consoling platitudes (civilian control, "defensive" orientation, etc.), however, 
critics found less reassuring lines of thought. The White Paper began by noting 
that, noble as the goals of the United Nations may be, "the rule of force re- 
mains." "True patriotism," it said, "demands not just love of peace and country 

136 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

but also eagerness to contribute on one's own initiative to the defense of the 
country." To maintain "national consensus" and a "sound society," the White 
Paper stated, "it becomes imperative that preventive efforts be kept up in the 
nonmihtary field at all times" — meaning police repression of domestic dissent. 
In a strikingly bold departure, the paper castigated the "nihilistic feelings about 
nuclear weapons prevailing among the people," and then stated that whereas 
Japan "should not" develop ICBMs or strategic bombers, "as for defensive nu- 
clear weapons, it is considered that Japan may have them in theory, without 
contradicting the Constitution." The paper called for sea and air supremacy 
"around Japan," without defining the key phrase. "^^ And, an act of omission, it 
was subsequently learned that a statement denying the possible future introduc- 
tion of mifitary conscription had been deleted from the final draft. "^^ 

The significance of the $16.9 billion Fourth Defense Plan (a five-year plan) 
lies not only in the fact that it was 50 percent again larger than all previous 
military budgets combined, but also that this major change in the scale of military 
expansion was introduced after it had become widely recognized that Japan al- 
ready possessed full capability for conventional defense of its homeland. In the 
view of most commentators, the goal of the plan is to provide Japan with the 
capability of "strategic" or "forward" or "offensive" defense — that is, the ca- 
pacity for "preventive war." Apologists for the plan point out that under it Japan 
will still be spending a smaller percentage of GNP (approximately 0.92 percent) 
than any other major power. The other side of this statistics game, however, is 
(1) the Japanese GNP is immense and expanding rapidly; (2) growth in military 
spending is exceeding growth in the overall economy; and (3) in per capita terms 
this will average out to roughly forty dollars per Japanese (China's per capita 
defense spending is $6.50; South Korea's $10). Much of the expenditures under 
the Fourth Defense Plan will go to increasing air and sea power; strength of the 
air force will grow 2.8 times, navy 2.3 times, and ground forces 1.9 times. 
Whereas the Third Defense Plan alloted $2.4 billion to expansion of equipment, 
the sum under the present plan will be $7 billion — an increase which critics re- 
gard as extremely significant insofar as the growth of a military-industrial com- 
plex in Japan is concerned. These sums, as is well known, flow primarily to a 
small number of giant concerns (notably Mitsubishi), which wield Extraordinary 
political leverage in Japan and have long been clamoring for a rise in defense 
expenditures up to 4 percent of GNP. As Herbert Bix has effectively documented, 
most of these firms also have lock-ins with U.S. defense contractors. This is an 
aspect of the Nixon Doctrine which is often overlooked — the creation, in the 
phrase of the Far Eastern Economic Review, of a "trans-Pacific mihtary-industrial 
complex." And, in appraising the ultimate implications of the Fourth Defense 
Plan, the same journal concludes that "of the alternatives, invasion of Japan by 
a hostile force or the despatch of Japanese forces to 'friendly' or 'hostile' soil, 
the latter is considered the more likely." '^^ 

In the days before the People's Republic of China became an acceptable 
entity in the United States, the late Mary Wright, professor of Chinese history 
at Yale, counseled students lecturing on China in their communities that their 
major task was elemental: to show that the Chinese were people. As the Japanese 
superpower came under fire both internationally and within the United States, on 
both economic and military grounds, defenders of the U.S.-Japan alliance in 
effect took upon themselves a comparable task: to stress that the Japanese were 
good folk, and more than that, capitalist and peace-loving like ourselves. Their 
position was most fully presented before the House Foreign Affairs Committee 
in November 1971 by George Ball, Edwin Reischauer, Robert Scalapino, Henry 


The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 137 

Rosovsky, and Hugh Patrick. Excerpts from these hearings were subsequently 
published by the United States-Japan Trade Council in a pamphlet appropriately 
entitled "United States & Japan: DANGER AHEAD." 

The Japan specialists attempted to demystify Japanese intentions and dispel 
popular misconceptions of the "unique" dynamics of the Japanese economic 
miracle by hardnosed reaffirmation of the fundamental and essential compatabil- 
ity of Japanese and American capitalism in Asia's future ("after all," in Patrick's 
words, "competition is inherent in the actuality and the ideology of our private 
enterprise systems"). Yet over their presentations hovered the shadow of George 
Kennan and the ghost of John Foster Dulles. For in the end they rested their 
arguments on the fundamental assumption of all postwar American policy in 
Asia. Japan is the superdomino. Professor Reischauer, for example, provided 
the Dulles-dimension of apocalypse: 

At this watershed in history, we could be witnessing the start of a flow in 
world events which could in time gain irreversible force and sweep us all 
to ultimate catastrophe. 

George Ball, in turn, evoked George Kennan, chapters 1948 and 1949, in dis- 
missing China and citing the pivotal importance to the United States of alliance 
with the industrial and military power of Japan: 

Today the United States is watching with fascination the emergence of 
China onto the world stage. . . . From the vantage point of the United 
States, there is only one large industrialized power in the Far East and that 
is Japan. China, by comparison, is an industrial primitive, whose GNP is not 
much more than a third of Japan's, in spite of an eight to one advantage in 

We must, of necessity, build our policy primarily on close relations with 
the most powerful country in the area: Japan. To do this will require skill 
and attention and a great deal more sensitivity than we have shown in 
recent months. . . . Japan plays two major roles of vital interest to the 
United States. First, it has the potential to become the most powerful po- 
litical and military nation in the East Asian and Pacific region and thus is 
likely to become the dominant power in the area. Second, it is today the 
third greatest industrial power in the world and may, in time, overtake the 
Soviet Union which is now the second greatest. 

Ball and Scalapino also implictly reaffirmed the traditional bipolar approach to 
American commitments in Asia. Thus Ball saw American relations with China 
and Japan as essentially an either/or proposition: "Under no circumstances 
could we envisage a relationship to China that would serve in any sense as an 
alternative to close Japanese-American cooperation." And Scalapino, a good real- 
ist from the early days of the Vietnam war, derided the thought of abandoning 

. . . the belief that in Asia, we can now substitute some kind of loose, yet 
equal quadrilateral relation among the United States, the Soviet Union, 
Japan and the People's Republic of China for the American-Japanese alli- 
ance is a form of romanticism that accords neither with the economic nor 
the political-military realities of this era. 

138 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

Scalapino also coupled skepticism of multipolar relations in Asia with evocation 
of another familiar apprehension: the threat of upheaval within Japan itself. "For 
the first time since 1949," he argued, "political instability in Japan is a distinct 

Insofar as Japanese mihtarism is concerned, the basic argument of the present 
defenders of the alliance is simple, and somewhat ironic. Whereas the original 
rationale of the security relationship had been that the U.S. base structure would 
protect Japan until Japan had remilitarized to the point of being capable of its 
own conventional defense, the current argument now holds that the United 
States must maintain its bases and forces in Japan and Okinawa indefinitely to 
prevent massive Japanese remilitarization. Thus Ball argued that, "To my mind 
there is nothing more important for the peace of the whole Pacific area than that 
the treaty [Mutual Security Treaty with Japan] be rigorously observed and that 
the United States do nothing to encourage Japanese militarization." Reischauer 
defended a similar position in these terms: 

On the defense side, if the Japanese lose confidence in us or believe that 
we will not treat them as real equals, a fairly rapid decline in the effective- 
ness of our Mutual Security Treaty with them will follow. Without the use 
of Japanese bases and tacit Japanese support, we could not reasonably main- 
tain the Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific or our commitment to South 
Korea, and would probably be forced to withdraw to mid-Pacific . . . the 
Japanese might drift back toward major military power, instability might 
increase in Asia, and inter-regional anxieties might reappear. The political 
and economic roads would then merge as they led downward toward a 
great world tragedy. 

James Reston posed this same question to Chou En-lai. "If we end the security 
pact with Japan," he asked, "is it in your view that it is more likely then that 
Japan will become more militaristic or less militaristic?" "That argument," Chou 
replied, "is quite a forced argument," for Japan is already rapidly remilitarizing 
under the security treaty. '^^ 

And of course it is, for that is the U.S. policy. 

The Chinese press answered the question with a question in turn: "Can it be 
that there is no revival of militarism until a war of aggression is launched one 
morning?" '^^ 

Time will tell. 


1. The major references to Japan which appear in the Senator Gravel edition are as 
follows: Vol. I, 39, 82, 84, 155, 187, 364, 366, 375, 386-387, 418-420, 425, 436, 438, 
450, 452, 469-470, 475, 511, 513, 589, 594, 597, 598, 600, 626-627. Vol II, 57, 459, 
664, 799, 817, 822. Vol. Ill, 3, 51, 87, 153, 219, 497, 500, 503, 598, 623, 627, 637, 
638, 658, 685, 723. Vol. IV, 54, 89, 91, 103, 108, 156, 174, 529, 614-615, 618-619, 
663, 669, 672, 683, 684. Henceforth this source will be cited as Gravel edition. 

2. George F. Kennan, Memoirs (1925-1950) (1967: Boston, Little, Brown), Ch. 

3. U.S. Government edition, 239, 254, 255, 257. 

4. USG ed., 262. 

5. Gravel ed., 1:415; 1:83-84. Cf. Roger Hilsman on the Chinese menace in 1963: 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 139 

"In Asia the greatest danger to independent nations comes from Communist China, 
with its 700 miUion people forced into the service of an aggressive Communist Party" 
{Ibid., II: 822). 

6. USG ed., 258. 

7. Ibid., 260-261. 

8. Ibid., 262-264. SCAP [Supreme Commander, Allied Powers] refers to General 
Douglas MacArthur, who had command over the occupation of Japan. 

9. Ibid., 434. 

10. Department of State Bulletin, January 21, 1952. Cf. William Sebald, With Mac- 
Arthur in Japan: A Personal History of the Occupation (1965: New York, W. W. 
Norton), 284 ff; and Herbert Morrison, Herbert Morrison, An Autobiography (1960: 
London, Odhams Press), 280. See also the authoritative history of the Yoshida cabinets, 
Iwao Takeuchi, ed., Yoshida Naikaku (1954: Tokyo, Yoshida Naikaku Kankokai), 
451 ff. 

11. Gunnar Adler-Karlson, Western Economic Warfare 1947-1967: A Case Study in 
Foreign Economic Policy, Acta Universitatis Stockhomienses, Stockliolm Economic 
Studies, New Series IX (1968: Stockholm), 208. See Ch. 16 of this study on CHIN- 

12. The details of these transactions demand detailed and integrated study, but this 
is not the type of research presently encouraged in U.S. scholarly circles. Fascinating 
but uncoordinated information can be found in Chitoshi Yanaga, Big Business in 
Japanese Politics (1968: New Haven, Yale). One early abortive plan in creating the 
Japan-Southeast Asia link involved U.S. endeavors to move Japanese economic interests 
into Southeast Asia by using Kuomintang contacts in Taiwan to establish an entree into 
Southeast Asia through the overseas Chinese there — a pagodalike form of neo-colonial- 
ism indeed. See Yoshida Naikaku, 495-578, for a useful summary in Japanese of the 
endeavors to create a U.S. -Japan-Southeast Asia nexus in the 1951-1954 period. 

13. Joseph M. Dodge Papers, cited in Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power 
(1972: New York, Harper and Row), 533. 

14. United Kingdom, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Documents Relating to 
British Involvement in the Indo-China Conflict, 1945-1965, 66-67; cited in Gabriel 
Kolko, The Roots of American Foreign Policy (1969: Boston, Beacon), 105. 

15. On the anticipation that Japan will gradually assume functions such as those now 
performed by the United States under the Military Assistance Program (MAP), in- 
cluding training of foreign military personnel, see the testimony of U. Alexis Johnson 
in United States Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad: Japan and Okinawa, 
Hearings before the Subcommittee on United States Security Agreements and Commit- 
ments Abroad of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, Ninety- 
first Congress, Second Session (Part 5), January 26-29, 1970, 1222. Hereafter cited as 
United States Security Agreements. 

16. Ibid., 1225. 

17. USG ed., p. 261; Cf. the May 1951 NSC document quoted in Section 3; also 
Gravel ed., 1:98. 

18. United States Security Agreements, 1165-1166. 

19. Far Eastern Economic Review, Feb. 13, 1971. Fujiyama in recent years has 
emerged as the leader of a group of conservative Japanese politicians who, even prior 
to the U.S. gestures toward China, advocated revision of the ruling Liberal-Democratic 
Party's China policy. Following his trip to China he was actually stripped of his party 
offices by the disciplinary committee of the party. 

20. Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power, 510, 525. For representative 
American views of the Occupation see Edwin O. Reischauer, The United States and 
Japan rev. ed. (1957: Cambridge, Harvard); also Robert E. Ward, "Reflections on the 
Allied Occupation and Planned Political Change in Japan," in Robert E. Ward, ed., 
Political Development in Modern Japan (1968: Princeton). In Japanese, extensive doc- 
umentation on the occupation period and its aftermath can be found in the indispen- 
sable "official" history of the Yoshida cabinets, Yoshida naikaku, and the valuable 
six-volume documentary collection Shiryo: Sengo nijunen shi (Documents: A History 
of the First Twenty Years of the Postwar Period) published in 1966-67 by Nihon 

140 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/ Vol. V 

Hyoronsha. The introductory chapter by Shigeki Toyama in volume 6 of the latter 
work is a useful chronological account of the 1945-1965 period, with sharp focus on 
the continuing unfolding of the reverse course. Seizaburo Shinobu's four-volume Sengo 
Nikon seijishi (Political History of Postwar Japan), published in 1965-67 by Keiso 
Shobo, is actually a detailed narrative account of the 1945-1952 period. 

21. I have dealt with aspects of the reverse course in occupied Japan prior to the 
Korean War in two previous articles: "The Eye of the Beholder: Background Notes on 
the U.S. -Japan Military Relationship," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, II, 1 
(October 1969); and "Occupied Japan and the American Lake, 1945-1950," in Edward 
Friedman and Mark Selden, eds., America's Asia: Dissenting Essays in U.S.-Asian Re- 
lations (1971: New York, Pantheon). These articles provide a fuller biography on this 
subject than can be listed here. 

22. Cf. George Kennan, Memoirs, 414-418, 525. 

23. USG ed., 239-242. 

24. USG ed., 434-435. 

25. Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power, 533. 

26. For a gullible but fascinating biography of Kishi in English see Dan Kurzman, 
Kishi and Japan: The Search for the Sun (1960: New York, Ivan Obolensky, Inc.). 
A useful and neglected English source on reverse-course trends in Japan up to 1960 is 
Ivan Morris, Nationalism and the Right Wing in Japan: A Study of Postwar Trends 
(1960: Oxford). Other useful sources on postwar trends within Japanese conservative 
ranks are Haruhiro Fukui, Party in Power: The Japanese Liberal-Democrats and Policy- 
making (1970: University of California); Eleanor M. Hadley, Antitrust in Japan 
(1970: Princeton); and Kozo Yamamura, Economic Policy in Postwar Japan: Growth 
versus Economic Democracy (1967: University of California). 

27. Okinawa Reversion Treaty, Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, 
United States Senate, Ninety-second Congress, October 27, 28, and 29, 1971, 14. 

28. United States Security Agreements, 1167, 1205. 

29. Kennan, Memoirs, 415. Even the role of the USSR in the events leading to the 
outbreak of the Korean War itself remains obscure. 

30. United States Security Agreements, 1418. Cf. 1207-1209, 1306-1307. 

31. See the testimony of U.S. China experts in United Slates-China Relations: A 
Strategy for the Future, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs 
of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, Ninety-first Congress, 
Second Session, September 15, 16, 22, 23, 24, 29, and October 6, 1970. 

32. Washington Post, November 30, 1969. For various statistics see United States 
Security Agreements, especially 1214, 1237, 1248, 1294; Okinawa Reversion Treaty, 
57; and Congressional Quarterly, Inc., Global Defense: U.S. Military Commitments 
Abroad (Sept. 1969). 

33. Cf. Okinawa Reversion Treaty, 64. 

34. Washington Post, November 30, 1969. United States Security Agreements, 1214. 
Japan does play an indirect role in the nuclear deterrence by servicing the Seventh 
Fleet, the SAC force, etc. The issue of exclusion of nuclear weapons from Japan and 
Okinawa is controversial in that some critics believe that, particularly with regard to 
postreversion Okinawa, the U.S. simply does not intend to honor its pledge. In one of 
the more dramatic scenarios of the Pentagon Papers, two contingency plans which 
"provide for either non-nuclear or nuclear options against China (OPLAN 32-64 and 
OPLAN 39-65) do involve use of U.S. bases in Japan, though in precisely what 
capacity is not clear. Gravel ed., 111:636-639. 

35. United States Security Agreements, 1166, 1243, 1415. 

36. See, for example, Morton Halpsrin's testimony in United States-China Relations. 

37. United States Security Agreements, 1162. 

38. The plan was prepared in 1963 and made public in the Diet in February 1965 
by a representative of the Socialist party in connection with the Japan-ROK normaliza- 
tion controversy. It has received inadequate attention in the United States. See Tsukasa 
Matsueda and George E. Moore, "Japan's Shifting Attitudes toward the Military: 
Mitsuya Kenkyu and the Self-Defense Force, Asian Survey, VII, 9 (Sept. 1969). 

39. United States Security Agreements, IIS3, 1214. 

The Superdomino in Postwar Asia 141 

! 40. Ronald Dore, "Japan As a Model of Economic Development, Archives Eu- 
I ropiennes de Sociologie, V, 1 (1964), 147-148, 153. 

j 41. G. C. Allen, A Short Economic History of Modern Japan, 1867-1937, With a 
\ Supplementary Chapter on Economic Recovery and Expansion, 1945-1960. (1962: New 
York, Praeger), 214. Special Procurements are defined by Allen as "Allied military 
i expenditure in dollars and pounds, yen purchases for Joint Defense Account, expendi- 
j ture of Allied soldiers and civilian officials in Japan, and payments in respect of certain 
1 offshore procurement contracts." The U.S. role in the "Allied" expenditures is, however, 
' overwhelming. 

I 42. Congressional Quarterly, Inc., Global Defense, 40. Cf. United States Security 
1 Agreements, 1205. 

43. United States Security Agreements, 1206, 1231, 1296. 

44. Cf. Far Eastern Economic Review, September 28, 1967, April 4 and 11, 1968. 

45. Yanaga, Big Business in Japanese Politics, esp. 251-272. 

46. Yanaga, Big Business, provides interesting insight into this. 

I 47. Bundy had visited Japan the previous month. Cf., however. Gravel ed., 111:685. 

48. United States Security Agreements, \\9A. 

49. Rusk was in fact being ingenuous about the reason the United States entered 
{ into the security treaty with Australia and New Zealand (ANZUS). As noted previ- 
1 ously here in the text, the two countries demanded the treaty of Dulles as a guarantee 

of their security against Japan and a precondition to their acquiescence in the inde- 
pendence-cum-remilitarization peace settlement which Dulles was at that time setting 
up for Japan. 
} 50. USG ed., 435. 

I 51. United States Foreign Policy, Asia Studies Prepared at the Request of the Com- 
I mittee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, by Conlon Associates, Ltd. 86th 
Congress, 1st Session (November 1, 1959), 85-109. The report also gives a prog- 
nosis of future U.S. military "disengagement" from Japan and Japan's maintenance of 
its own "forward" defense, and stresses that Japan's future will be dependent upon 
maintenance of the status quo in Asia. 
!j 52. I have dealt with this general problem at some length in my doctoral dissertation, 
1 "Yoshida Shigeru and the Great Empire of Japan, 1878-1945," Harvard University, 
' 1972. 

; 53. The Pentagon Papers indirectly raise an interesting question as to the extent to 
\ which the United States took Japan into its confidence insofar as U.S. policy regarding 
I the Vietnam war is concerned. This emerges most notably in those sections of the 
i Papers which deal with the crucial period in late 1964 when the United States was 
I planning to escalate the war, for in virtually every document relating to this decision, 
j wherever the problem of prior coordination with "key allies" concerning this escalation 
I is concerned, Japan is conspicuously absent from the listings of those key allies. Cf. 
Gravel ed., 111:257, 290, 308, 593, 611, 613, 650, 658-659, 664, 677, 681, 717. 
54. United States Security Agreements, 1197. 
I 55. The favorite epithets tacked on Japan by the Chinese have been the "gendarme 
i in Asia," the "running dog," and the "fugle-man" of U.S. imperialism. 
I 56. United States Security Agreements, \259. 

' 57. The "trade war" fear pervades virtually all U.S. articles on Japanese economic 
expansion which have appeared in both popular and specialized American journals dur- 

i ing the past several years. The danger of provoking Japan to the extent that it may 
endeavor to break with the United States and establish an independent "third" bloc in 
Asia, rivaling the United States and Western Europe, has been particularly strongly 

' emphasized by Edwin Reischauer. Cf. his November 1971 testimony before the House 
Foreign Affairs Committee, as abstracted in United States-Japan Trade Council, United 
States and Japan: Danger Ahead, p. 4. 

58. USG ed., 1949, 227; cited also in Gravel ed., 1:82. 

59. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, "Listing of Recent U.S. Criticisms Against 
Japan," August 1971. Mimeographed. I am grateful to Jon Sherwood for providing me 
with a copy of this, as well as certain other materials used in this essay. 

' 60. Ibid. A brief section of the document also listed "Criticisms concerning Political 

142 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

Matters," under which three general categories were noted: (1) inadequacy of Japan's 
efforts in the field of defense; (2) dissatisfaction concerning the return of Okinawa; 
and (3) criticism concerning the Japanese attitude toward American foreign policy. 
But the overwhelming focus of the document is on economic matters. 

61. Congressional Record, November 29, 1971, p. E 12671. Thurmond's influential 
position in American domestic politics, namely the "Southern strategy" on which Nixon 
came to power, would seem to be of central importance in interpreting what otherwise 
appears to be the needless offensiveness of the "Nixon shocks" to which Japan has re- 
cently been subjected. For the Southern bloc which figures so strongly in Republican 
national politics is also the "textile bloc" which harbors most blatant anti-Japanese 

62. United States-Japan Trade Council, op. cit., 9. 

63. The Chinese constantly emphasize this "contradiction." See, for example, Com- 
mittee of Concerned Asian Scholars, China! Inside the People's Republic (1972: 
Bantam), 355; also The New York Times, Report from Red China (1972: Avon), 99. 

64. This controversial issue arose during Laird's visit to Japan in July 1971 and 
received wide press coverage. The Senate Republican Policy Committee attempted to 
discredit the rumor that the Nixon Administration was encouraging Japanese acquisition 
of nuclear weapons in its Republican Report of July 29, 1971. The issue was revived in 
January 1972; cf. Washington Post, January 16, 1972. 

65. United States Security Agreements, 1218. 

66. The report was authored by Representatives Lester L. Wolff of New York and 
J. Herbert Burke of Florida and issued by the House Committee of Foreign Relations 
on April 22, 1970. On Japan's economic goals, the mission observed that "The general 
impression of the Japanese economy was of a healthy animal seeking, on one hand, to 
protect itself from other healthy animals and, on the other hand, using its strength to 
secure some measure of obedience from weaker animals." 

67. Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars, China!, 358. Cf. The New York Times, 
Report from Red China, 62, 64-66, 69, 72-73, 84, 9 Iff. 

68. The article is reprinted along with seven other pieces in Down with Revived 
Japanese Militarism (1971: Peking, Foreign Languages Press). 

69. United States Security Agreements, 1445. 

70. Ibid., 1439ff. 

71. In addition to the "Report of Special Study Mission to Asia" quoted in the text, 
see Robert Scalapino's testimony of September 1970 in United States-China Relations, 

72. United States Security Agreements, 1 184-1 186. 

73. Down with Revived Japanese Militarism, 33. 

74. The quotations are from an abstract of the White Paper published in the Japan 
Times, October 21, 1970. 

75. Down with Revived Japanese Militarism, 16. 

76. Far Eastern Economic Review, November 7, 1970, and May 15, 1971. Herbert 
Bix, "The Security Treaty and the Japanese Military Industrial Complex," Bulletin of 
Concerned Asian Scholars, II, 2 (January 1970). 

77. The New York Times, Report from Red China, 93-94. 

78. Down with Revived Japanese Militarism, 7. 


9. The Last Line of Defense 
by Nina S. Adams 

The Pentagon study is very much Hke the American operation it tries to 
describe — an enormous, overpowering, resourceful and misdirected effort which 
could crush by its sheer weight if it failed to convince by its arguments. Dili- 
gently rather than perceptively compiled, the Defense Department History of 
U.S. Decisionmaking on Vietnam is not a sudden revelation of truth, not a his- 
tory of the war and certainly not a history of Vietnam although it has been 
mistaken for a composite of all three. The study's significance lies in its initial 
impact on the public and in the future use of its documents by historians; it is 
least valuable for the historical analysis it purports to contain. The summary 
sections pull the reader into a maze of indigestible detail shot through with 
precisely those simplistic generalizations which should be challenged by both 
scholars and activists. 

The raw materials, the choice of authors, the intended Pentagon audience 
and the methods of research for the study determined its hypotheses, categories 
and conclusions. Confined to the available documents and guided by their own 
political inclinations, the authors reflect more than they question the assumptions 
and biases of earlier decisionmakers. Not surprisingly, the authors adopted the 
peculiar Pentagon device of seeking truth by choosing the middle ground among 
absurd or badly formulated "options." As loyalists writing a work for policy- 
makers to read, the authors omitted the topics and questions which should form 
the core of a historical treatment of American interference in Asia. The study 
fails as history for it makes no attempt to deal with the Vietnamese reahty and 
isolates Vietnam policy entirely from other American foreign policies and from 
American history. The result is a tedious chronicle which makes little sense. 
Just like successive American administrations, the Pentagon authors pay no 
attention to the character of the Indochinese resistance organizations whose 
blending of political and military concerns into revolutionary warfare has been 
the key to their success against superior forces since 1945. Rejecting any notion 
of the United States as a power with systemic and agency interests, the authors 
passively accept the conventional rhetoric which conceals rather than exposes 
the roots of American foreign policy. 

The Pentagon team was not commissioned to explore the past objectively but 
to answer the question "What went wrong?" The study's message, "Do it differ- 
ently," has been heeded by the Nixon administration, which ignored the study 
itself. We are now in the Third Indochina War, characterized by reliance on 
mercenaries, computerized warfare, massive bombing, greater secrecy and in- 
tensified destruction. The new warfare, aimed at total destruction of revolutionary 
movements by complete elimination of population, differs from earlier combat in 
methods, not in aims. It can be carried on without loss of American life or the 
damaging publicity that hampered earlier operations. The Nixon administration 
escalated at the same time and in part because the conviction was spreading that 

Copyright © 1972 by Nina S. Adams 

144 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

the war was winding down. The information and analyses needed to understand 
the new face of war have already appeared; we don't have to wait for the de- 
classification of documents in order to knowledgably oppose what is happening 

The Pentagon materials which have been released to the public are useful for 
showing the depth of self- and public deception of which the government is 
capable. But a careful reading of the entire work will yield little information 
that was not published before nor will it offer any protection for the public from 
future lies that cover up aggression in Asia and elsewhere. The critiques in the 
study stick closely to instrumental matters such as non-coordination among de- 
partments or the failure to analyze intelligence reports and dissect policy pro- 
posals. The chronologies, maps and outlines of major agreements which the 
study offers or reproduces from unclassified sources are themselves too incom- 
plete or biased to be used even in settling cocktail-party arguments. On its own 
the effort is significantly incomplete, for the writers were not able to use White 
House records and had only limited access to State Department materials. The 
authors neither interviewed key individuals nor examined their records. Scholarly 
and journalistic accounts of events in the United States and in Indochina were 
rarely and selectively consulted; the implications and substance of critics' ac- 
counts were completely overlooked. 

The Pentagon Papers can be of value to three groups, as much for what they 
omit as for what Ihey reveal. Diplomatic historians and Washington-watchers who 
scrutinize the mechanisms which operate in the closed world and uptighter minds 
of "security managers" will find the documents useful to validate or inspire more 
rigorous examinations of the past. The naive scholars who dream that a literate 
elite will accept their sophisticated advice on how to deal with a complex world 
will get, hopefully, a beneficial shock at the crudity of thought which the docu- 
ments reveal. The antiwar movement will find respectable and irrefutable backing 
for all that it has been saying for the past eight years. Among these revelations 
are details of covert operations, anti-Chinese fanaticism and examples of brinks- 
manship which very few critics have dared to allege. 

But the most important question to ask is, what use are the papers to the 
citizen whose tax dollars supported both the writing of the study and the war 
itself? Frankly, no one without unlimited leisure, a scholarly background and 
enormous patience will get much from the study, and it has little that could not 
be found elsewhere in infinitely more readable form.* Skimming even a portion 
of the work will reveal to Americans what the Indochinese, judging by actions 
rather than words, have known all along. 

Successive administrations lied to the American public about everything from 
weaponry to negotiations, POWs to potential bloodbaths, escalation to Viet- 
namization and back again. Other essays in Volume V of the Gravel edition of 
the Pentagon Papers deal with these and related issues. The Pentagon study does, 
however, succeed in emphasizing for those who have forgotten or who never 
knew John Foster Dulles or the old Nixon, how dangerously rigid the crusaders 
are, how much they rely on military operations and how broadly they define 
"national security." 

In looking at the study as a historical account, one is struck by the extent to 
which it is a political work in which a few isolatable assumptions have simplified 
the issues and created gaps in both history and analysis. The Pentagon authors 

* Instead of extensive footnotes and bibliography, I have appended to this article a 
topical list of books on Indochina, the war, and the issues I have tried to raise. 

The Last Line of Defense 145 

assume that their readers share the same anti-Communist view that pervades the 
documents and thus will accept their simple retrospective rationalizations. But 
communism and conspiracy alone cannot explain why the United States is so 
involved in Asia or why the United States cannot prevail in Indochina. Fervent 
anticommunism is not a strong enough alibi for the American persistence in 
finding reasons to pursue the battle for a "free" Vietnam. 

Not surprisingly, a spinoff from publication of the study has been a series of 
articles by former government loyalists debating whether the Vietnam involve- 
ment was generated by presidential optimism or pessimism. This limited argu- 
ment on defining a "quagmire" fits neatly into the Pentagon study's circum- 
scribed framework of discussion. The result is that secondary issues, such as 
the accuracy of intelligence estimates, can be aired endlessly; no man or institu- 
tion is touched by guilt for war crimes; and the main issues are again overlooked 
by the public, which quite sensibly ignores the debate. 

The documents and the Pentagon authors take for granted several assump- 
tions which are worth noting. First they repeat that the United States was "un- 
expectedly pressed into world leadership" after World War II and that the 
United States continues, unselfishly, to shoulder that responsibility today. The 
study contends that the United States had difficulty in amassing the knowledge 
and sophistication needed to deal with individual problems such as the Viet- 
namese revolution. Furthermore, the authors believe that due to American naivete 
and the focus on European affairs, American policies were so ambivalent that 
the United States remained basically uninvolved in most of Asia's postwar con- 
1 flicts. The Pentagon authors are most anxious to prove that once the United 
I States began to involve itself in Asian affairs, its goals were altruistic and com- 
I mendable, but it often chose the wrong methods, relying too heavily on military 
, rather than political tools. Even so, the Pentagon writers feel that American aid 
and counterinsurgency programs, particularly those of the 1950s, would have 
been successful except for the stubbornness of first the French and later Ngo 
, Dinh Diem, both of whom took advantage of American generosity, bureaucratic 
1. confusion and blind anti-Communist reflexes. 

1 In summarizing the sad history of Vietnam in the late 1940s, the Pentagon 
j authors offer a set of hindsight questions that reveal both their biases and their 

I' limits as historical analysts. 
For example, the U.S. could have asked itself — "Did we really have to 
support France in Southeast Asia in order to support a noncommunist 
France internally and in Europe?" Another question we could have asked 
ourselves was — "If the U.S. choice in Vietnam really came down to either 
French colonialism or Ho Chi Minh, should Ho automatically be excluded?" 
Again, "If the U.S. choice was to be France, did France have any real 
chance of succeeding, and if so, at what cost?" (Gravel edition, 1:51). 

Apart from the major unasked question, "Why couldn't the Pentagon authors 
see the many other questions which should be asked?" the questions themselves 
make sense only in the fantasy world created by the study. In that world, the 
United States, unlike other powers, had no systemic interests, no desire to ex- 

, pand its power, no domestic or foreign restraints on its thinking or its options. 

I The Pentagon authors, dealing solely with specific memoranda rather than con- 
temporary American conceptions of the world, see no link between the foreign- 
policy decisions they regret and the factors which determined them from 1940 

,to 1968. American opposition to communism in Europe is neither explained nor 

146 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

placed in its historical setting. While the study deals at length with President 
Roosevelt's vague ideas about the future of the French colonies, it ignores, among 
many other things, the American wartime decision to oppose communism in 
Europe by supporting the Sicilian and Corsican Mafias against anti-German 
resistance groups in Italy and France. In recounting what some high-level de- 
cisionmakers were pontificating rather than what lower-level officials were doing, 
the study retains the same level of ignorance as the worst of the documents. 

Hoping to prove the case for American "ambivalence" the study ignores con- 
temporary accounts, Office of Strategic Services evaluations and historians' treat- 
ments of the complex and explosive Indochinese situation after World War II. 
Since the writers pay little attention to either the French or the Vietnamese 
postures from 1945 to 1950, the reader has no way of judging the realism of 
American decisions to permit the British to reoccupy Saigon for the French, to 
ignore appeals for recognition from the Ho Chi Minh government, or to offer 
France the aid which freed her to begin colonial reconquest. The study seems 
to reaffirm the correctness of these decisions by summarizing events incompletely 
from a more sophisticated but still unmistakably anti-Communist point of view. 
Thus the authors submit their study of "Ho Chi Minh: Asian Tito?" and regret- 
fully conclude that he never would have panned out in that role. Unlike most 
histories of the period, the Pentagon study contends that American actions and 
refusals to take action did not influence events in Asia; in fact they did, although 
America was indeed far from preoccupied with the region. For the Pentagon 
authors, America was "neutral" because in Indochina "it regarded the war as 
fundamentally a matter for French resolution" (Gravel ed., 1:28). To most 
observers, this was a pro-French stand. 

Examining the Vietnamese situation from 1950 (when the study mistakenly 
assumes American involvement to have begun) to 1954, the Pentagon authors ; 
distort the history of the period and focus their attention again on American 
assumptions of omnipotence and international guardianship. 

It has been argued that even as the U.S. began supporting the French in ! 
Indochina, the U.S. missed opportunities to bring peace, stability and inde- : 
pendence to Vietnam. The issues arise [sic] from the belief on the part of 
some critics that (a) the U.S. made no attempt to seek out and support a 
democratic-nationalist alternative in Vietnam; and (b) the U.S. commanded, 
but did not use, leverage to move the French toward granting genuine Viet- 
namese independence (Gravel ed., 1:53. Emphasis added). \ 

At no time did the United States have the power or the knowledge to force any ; 
solution which the Vietnamese found unacceptable. The Pentagon fantasy em- 
bodied in this passage is significant for the implicit racism which then and later 
characterized American decisionmaking on Vietnam; neither the documents nor, 
the study can accept that the Vietnamese themselves, or for that matter the 
French themselves, could know, judge, and act intelligently to preserve their ; 
interests. Having used none of the available histories of the French colonial war, 
the Vietnamese armed struggle or the background to either, the Pentagon au- 
thors simplify the issues down to supposed American failures to force accom- 
modation to our guidance and ideas. In the retrospective Pentagon study, the 
defeat of American allies — who, through an inexplicable lack of vision insisted 
on doing much of their own planning — was no surprise except insofar as the 
Americans had been hoodwinked into accepting falsely optimistic reports of 
forthcoming victories. 

The Last Line of Defense 141 

The problems raised by the Pentagon study's narrow focus can be seen again 
in the analysis of "the policy context" in 1950. 

Events in China of 1948 and 1949 brought the United States to a new 
Ij awareness of the vigor of communism in Asia, and to a sense of urgency 

over its containment. U.S. policy instruments developed to meet unequivocal 
communist challenges in Europe were applied to the problem of the Far 
East. Concurrent with the development of NATO, a U.S. search began for 
collective security in Asia; economic and military assistance programs were 
j inaugurated; and the Truman Doctrine acquired wholly new dimensions by 

extension into regions where the European empires were being dismantled 
(Gravel ed., 1:34-35). 

! It is true that the victory of Mao Tse-tung's revolutionary forces in the final 
Chinese civil war of 1945 to 1949 showed the strength of an armed Communist 
movement in Asia. But certainly the U.S. State Department, with excellent reports 
I at its disposal, knew that Chiang Kai-shek's government had lost because of its 
i own corruption, inefficiency and brutality. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, for 
i example, explained at a press conference on January 20, 1950, "What has hap- 
I pened is . . . that the patience of the Chinese people in their misery has ended. 
I They did not bother to overthrow this government. There was simply nothing 
\ to overthrow. They simply ignored it throughout the country." 
I There exist innumerable excellent discussions of the period by eyewitnesses, 
those who studied the official U.S. documents, and by the State Department it- 
; self, which issued The China White Paper of 1950 analyzing carefully why U.S. 
1 support could not have saved Chiang's regime. All of these accounts have been 
, ignored by the Pentagon authors, who seem totally unaware of the American 
I experience in China and how it might have been weighed against the later inter- 
1 vention in Vietnam. 

1 While the study implies that the United States had stayed aloof from the 
' Chinese conflict, almost as "neutral" as in Vietnam in the same years, American 
support prolonged Chiang's hopeless effort to redeem his politically bankrupt 
regime. Reports from Americans, including military observers, that the Chinese 
Communists, like the Viet Minh, were honest, popular and effective leaders, were 
I disregarded. More than sheeplike anticommunism was operating here. American 
, interest in China had never been one of benevolence alone. In 1945 the Ameri- 
cans were still hoping for internal reforms promoting liberal capitalism which 
would sustain a state where American business could profit and expand. In China 
in the 1940s as in Vietnam in the 1950s the United States chose to bolster a client 
leadership which compromised its nationalism by allowing American access; the 
alternative, never seriously considered, was to risk dealing with a revolutionary 
force which would soon reject American businessmen, missionaries and political 

The Pentagon study fails most strikingly to deal with the facts and dynamics 
of American history. The United States did not begin a search for collective 
security in Asia in 1948; the Open Door and tutelage of China in uneasy alliance 
with Japan had been American policies since the end of the nineteenth century. 
I The Truman Doctrine was expanding naturally as opportunities opened in pre- 
viously restricted colonial areas. Compared to the other nations involved, the 
I United States emerged from the Second World War untouched and even strength- 
l ened, knowing itself to be the strongest power in the world. The American 
i ^ military, having allied with private industry, scientists and scholars, resisted being 

148 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

dismantled and instead found threats to justify its continued expansion at home 
and abroad. The Pentagon's greatest achievement was in public relations, for it 
convinced a largely willing Congress that a war machine could be purely de- \ 
fensive and subject to control. The self-interest of military and civilian groups 
seeking to maximize influence and profits was covered by an ideological gloss of ' 
defensive anticommunism. 

Although the study sees the Korean War as the major turning point in Ameri- ! 
can Far Eastern policy, it can be argued that American actions in Asia follow a . 
consistent line from the early 1800s through the 1970s. The United States was \ 
always concerned with the free movement of American capital overseas, the 
sustenance of the domestic economy by making profits abroad, and the expansion 
of markets. Government acquiescence to and support of these goals, if necessary ; 
by military force, was confirmed again as policy but dubbed with a new title i 
after 1945. National Security Council memorandum 68 (not included in any , 
edition of the Pentagon study), which was approved in April 1950 by President \ 
Truman before the outbreak of the Korean War, "envisioned quadrupling the | 
Defense budget to an unprecedented peacetime figure of 10% of the Gross \ 
National Product or about $50 billion." i j 

Colonialism had become costly and obsolete because of the changes which had \ 
been climaxed by the Second World War. The American method was that of in- ; 
direct political and economic manipulation. The meaning and uses of tools like j 
the Agency for International Development, the International Monetary Fund and 
the CIA were concealed behind a screen of rhetoric which worked quite well in | 
the United States; it never deceived those opposing the recolonization of their 

With the United States embarked on this international course, all threats to 
American access if not hegemony became "Communist subversion," and Amer- 
ica's original pragmatic interests disappeared into a crusade so overladen with I 
emotionalism that far too many people, including the policymakers, forgot where ; 
it all had started. In reading the documents, one finds only scattered references > 
to America's fundamental interests in Southeast Asia. But one does find sufficient 
acknowledgment that the United States, rather than taking a belatedly defensive ! 
stand against communism in Indochina, was thinking in terms of the global econ- ' 
omy and the need to protect economic interests. In reading the study based on \ 
the documents, it is clear that the Pentagon authors accept both the notion of 
American "rights" and the legitimacy of the rhetoric which extends them. 

Occasionally one has to unravel American projections and read backwards i 
from statements of the motives they attribute to the Russians, Chinese and na- \ 
tionalist movements. For example, the National Security Council study com- ; 
pleted in the fall of 1949 asserted that while almost no Southeast Asian nation 
"is fit to govern itself," most would soon do so. The resulting problem of "in- 
stability" would have to be solved "on a non-imperialist plane." The memorandum \ 

continued : ' 


In any event, colonial-nationalist conflict provides a fertile field for sub- i 

versive communist activities, and it is now clear that southeast Asia is the j 

target of a coordinated off'ensive directed by the Kremlin. In seeking to gain [ 

control of southeast Asia, the Kremlin is motivated in part by a desire to \ 
acquire southeast Asia's resources and communications lines, and to deny 

them to us (Gravel ed., 1:37). ' 

Having accepted that America had certain "rights" in the world, signs of op- 
position were taken as offensive threats stemming from a conspiratorial base. It 

The Last Line of Defense 149 

then became easy for the United States to plan "forward deployment contain- 
ment" while honestly viewing it as a solely defensive measure having little to do 
with the original decision to expand. Only once having postulated the need for an 
American empire in the Pacific Basin could the Joint Chiefs of Staff define the 
situation in April 1950 as follows: 

1. In light of U.S. strategic concepts, the integrity of the offshore island 
chain from Japan to Indochina is of critical strategic importance to the 
United States. 

2. The mainland states of Southeast Asia also are at present of critical 
strategic importance to the United States because: 

a. They are the major sources of certain strategic materials required 
for the completion of United States stock pile projects. 

b. The area is a crossroad of communications (Gravel ed., 1:364). 

The National Security Council staff study dated February 13, 1952, went into 
greater detail about Southeast Asia's role as the principal supplier of rubber, tin 
and petroleum for the United States and Europe. Strategically, and of course 
thinking only in purely defensive terms, 

Communist domination of mainland Southeast Asia would place unfriendly 
forces astride the most direct and best-developed sea and air routes between 
the Western Pacific and India and the Near East. . . . Besides disrupting 
established lines of communication in the area, the denial of actual military 
facilities in mainland Southeast Asia . . . would compel the utilization of 
less desirable peripheral bases (Gravel ed., 1:376). 

I am not attempting to argue simplistically that an American hunger for raw 
materials or air routes led the United States to underwrite 80 percent of the costs 
of the Vietnam war after 1950. Like the Pentagon authors, I note in most of the 
pre-1950 documents included in the study very little direct mention of Vietnam. 
But what I find, and the Pentagon authors choose to misunderstand, is the expan- 
sionist tone and international focus, the drive to contain communism but for 
reasons which go beyond simple ideological fervor. 

So little have the Pentagon authors studied Indochina that they even accept the 
totally false statement of General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny in 1951, who asserted 
that the French were no longer making profits in Vietnam and that they had no 
interests to safeguard there except Western civilization, which was under attack 
by communism (Gravel ed., 1:67). De Lattre spoke at a time when both the 
French and the Americans had a strong economic stake in Indochina; both con- 
tinued to make money, for example, from the Cochin-Chinese plantations into 
which the Viet Minh did not seriously penetrate until very late 1953. Although 
the war cost the French and American taxpayers ten times the value of French 
investments in Indochina, the private interests which had made most of the invest- 
ments kept reaping profits right to the bitter end. Many French colons, banks, 
and backers in metropolitan France made their fortunes from the piaster exchange 
racket and from loopholes in aid arrangements. 

As for the Americans, they soon began to take over the predominant economic 
role from the French, who kept a close and unfriendly eye on American informa- 
tion-gathering, investment, and use of the aid program (60 percent of whose funds 
were devoted to importing commodities to generate counterpart funds). Imports 
into Indochina from the United States went from 2 million piasters in 1936 to 

150 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

298 million piasters in 1948. In that year the United States supplied 42 percent of 
the imports coming into the Far East. American investment in Indochina shot up 
from $8,854,000 in 1946 to $13,550,000 in 1950.2 The United States did not see 
a specific economic stake in Indochina and thus move in to support the French. 
But by a happy coincidence that has been noted in every other similar situation, 
the decision to resist communism brought other benefits in its wake. 

Neither the documents nor the commentary deal with the attitudes and organ- 
ization of the allied French or opposing Viet Minh, both of whom noted and 
feared the gradual insinuation of America into Vietnam. The Pentagon study, 
which postulates and accepts anticommunism as an impetus for action, does not 
include any later reassessment of the 1948 State Department analysis which found 
"evidence of Kremlin-directed conspiracy ... in virtually all countries except 
Vietnam. . . ." The State Department then evaluated the situation in a way 
whose defiance of common sense I leave to others to explain. 

Evaluation. If there is a Moscow-directed conspiracy in Southeast Asia, 
Indochina is an anomaly so far. Possible explanations are: 

1 . No rigid directives have been issued by Moscow. 

2. The Vietnam government considers that it has no rightist elements that 
must be purged. 

3. The Vietnam Communists are not subservient to the foreign policies 
pursued by Moscow. 

4. A special dispensation for the Vietnam government has been arranged 
in Moscow. 

Of these possibilities, the first and the fourth seem most likely (Gravel ed., 

While the Pentagon authors strongly criticize (but never probe the reasons for) 
Dulles' virulent anticommunism, they fail to explain the peculiar Franco-Ameri- 
can minuet of the early 1950s. France forever promised more independence to 
the Associated States of Indochina and the United States accepted each declara- 
tion as a reason to offer more aid to an anti-Communist rather than colonial war. 
Here the Pentagon study discusses America's poor bargaining behavior and mis- 
use of leverage but fails to realize that American policy could not have been 
changed without a major shift in American thinking about the nature of the 
world. What eventually altered the French posture was the course of events in 
Vietnam, where the French lost to an opponent whose ideas and ideals they never 

The section of the Pentagon study dealing with the Geneva conference and the 
diplomatic activities surrounding it concentrates not on what was occurring but 
rather on what the documents try to reflect. The authors wonder if fulfillment of 
the final settlement might not have been a good thing, then criticize the Geneva 
Accords because they "countenanced the dissociation of the U.S. and of South 
Vietnam," and depended on France to guarantee enforcement. What has struck 
other historians most about this period is the stubborn American preparation to 
continue the war, with help or alone, in some form or other. The Pentagon study 
sees only a minimal connection between the U.S. activities planned and then 
abandoned, and the difficulties which the Geneva conference faced. 

Buried amid the documents is a highly significant one which does not appear 
in the New York Times or U.S. government editions of the Pentagon Papers. On 

The Last Line of Defense 151 

I July 14, 1954, the American, French and English governments agreed on a secret 

\ position paper outlining seven points which would make any Geneva settlement 

I into one which could be "respected." The position paper (which had been dis- 

\ cussed by several historians before it appeared in full in the Gravel edition) 

\ specified that the Viet Minh must withdraw from Laos and Cambodia, that at 

\ least southern Vietnam and hopefully an enclave in the northern deltas should be 

; kept, and that the Indochinese states not accept any restrictions "materially im- 

! pairing their capacity to maintain stable non-communist regimes; and especially 

\ restrictions impairing their right to maintain adequate forces for internal security, 

j to import arms, and to employ foreign advisers." Point 4 of the same document 

! stipulated that an agreement could be "respected" only if it "Does not (repeat 

} not) contain political provisions which would risk the loss of the retained area to 

\ Communist control" (Gravel ed., 1:555). 

j The American negotiators at Geneva never grasped the crux of the matter, 

! which was the continual military setbacks and the total political defeat which the 

I French were experiencing in Indochina. The Pentagon authors do not understand 

j it either, which enables them to comment, "The French had cleverly exploited 

i| the American assistance program without having brought in the Americans in full 

I force, yet had also been unable to save Dien Bien Phu from being overrun on 

I May 7, [1954]" (Gravel ed., 1:109). To the Americans, the French desire to 

j negotiate was evidence solely of a deplorable lack of backbone. In retrospect the 

\ Pentagon authors seem to agree and move even further into absurdity by allow- 

j ing themselves and the reader to assume that the South Vietnamese government 

I was then not only independent but also capable of carrying on the civil war. One 

; of the best Western analysts of the French Indochina War, the late Bernard Fall, 

! saw the key to France's defeat in the loss of almost the entire northern half of 

j North Vietnam in the fall of 1950 and the subsequent French failure to offer a 

I viable political alternative to the Viet Minh. 


For the French, the Indochina War was lost then and there. That it was 
allowed to drag on inconclusively for another four years is a testimony to 
the shortsightedness of the civilian authorities who were charged with draw- 
ing the political conclusions from the hopeless military situation. American 
aid . . . was to make no difference whatsoever to the eventual outcome of 
the war.^ 

i The political and military lessons which Fall and others, French and Vietnamese, 
I drew from the French experience did not influence the Americans, who repeated 
; all the French errors more expensively, extensively and hopelessly. By 1968 

neither the American policymakers nor the Pentagon authors had learned much 

at all. 

The Pentagon study is very coy on the implications of the American plans to 
establish SEATO, on the American selection and support of Ngo Dinh Diem 
I and on the role of the CIA in Saigon during and after the Geneva conference. 

Work which has been done on the first two issues and the revelations in the 
, documents about the third go far to contradict the Pentagon study's contention 
f that the United States was merely dubious about, rather than completely opposed 
|i to, not only the conference but its outcome as well. The only value of the Penta- 
t; gon study of Geneva is to make even clearer than earlier accounts why the Viet 
i Minh, who were aware of the real U.S. posture, then and later doubted the value 

152 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

of negotiated settlements involving the United States and implemented solely 
through the good faith of the parties. 

The Pentagon account of the immediate post-Geneva period shows the speed 
with which the United States forced the French out of Indochina and the dili- 
gence with which they torpedoed the French attempts to fulfill the accords. By 
the end of the conference, the first of what was to be an endless flow of American 
advisers, researchers and intelHgence agents had reached Saigon. There they be- 
gan the process of "nationbuilding," disregarding Vietnamese history, culture and 
political heritages. Vietnam was to become a living laboratory for social scientists 
imbued with Cold War liberalism and fortified by a new vocabulary of social 
engineering. The few restrictions the new colonialists faced in Vietnam were not 
duplicated in Laos, which became completely an American sphere of influence 
and a testing ground for new forms of counterrevolution. The American military 
arrived in Laos and Vietnam to build the army and police forces needed to sustain 
unpopular governments and to create the "bastions" from which to reconquer 
northern Vietnam. The Vietnamization idea of the French, and the further divi- 
sion of ethnic minorities by organizing special forces and CIA armies from among 
the Montagnards, were significant policies in the 1950s although they are not 
treated at all in the Pentagon study. 

In looking at the years of Ngo Dinh Diem's presidency the Pentagon study 
focuses exclusively on the weaknesses of specific programs such as pacification 
(in various guises), which fell apart, in their view, because America's "limited 
partnership" with the Vietnamese took no account of the difficulties of coordina- 
tion and the problems of reconciling opposing objectives. The study does not con- 
sider the question of how a nation could be built from the outside and who the 
beneficiaries of such a process could be. Neither the policymakers nor the Penta- 
gon authors choose to recognize that a neocolonial effort was under way; little 
was built in Vietnam although specific industries in the United States profited by 
supplying commodities for the import program, arms for the military, and bank- 
ing facilities to help the exchanges. 

In the Pentagon study, America's error is seen to have been solely the selection 
of the wrong individual, Ngo Dinh Diem, and the failure after 1963 to find an 
adequate substitute for that flawed and fallen protege. Vietnamese and observers 
from the West have seen instead America's role in creating a fatal cycle of de- 
pendence. Just as foreign support of a weak regime could not be sustained in 
China — where the greater the foreign support and presence, the weaker the ruling 
clique became — outside manipulation soon made the postcolonial state of Viet- 
nam unviable as a nationalist entity. The greater the foreign support, the less the 
popular support; the less the ruler's feeling of responsibility to his own people, 
the less he could govern and the more he needed foreign assistance. At the same 
time, the foreigners were trapped into a cycle of frustration and escalation. Each 
time a program failed to influence hearts and minds or to fulfifl a given aim, the 
Americans reached further into their pocketbooks and bags of tricks to force the 
result they desired. When all efforts to win minds failed, the liberal Americans 
moved naturally to dominate behavior. In practice this meant the adoption of a 
genocidal strategy. 

The American preoccupation with dominance in the area and the tactics chosen 
to pursue limited and long-term aims were no secret to the Vietnamese, Laotians 
and Cambodians who watched and suffered American maneuvers. As early as 
1958, the Press and Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
in Hanoi had published, in several languages, a 96-page booklet replete with maps 

I The Last Line of Defense 153 

' and charts, outlining what they argued was a longstanding American desire to use 
I Vietnam to protect strategic interests in and along the coast of Asia. The Viet- 
j namese authors quoted John Foster Dulles, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
I and a succession of American generals "advising" the new anti-Communist armed 
! forces in Saigon. The Vietnamese found ample documentation in Western jour- 
j nalists' reports, Saigon newspapers and the reports of the International Control 
; Commission, which had been established by the Geneva Accords. 
I The Vietnamese, because of America's military focus in their country, were 
j most aware of the complex group of advisory organizations which controlled the 
J police, the militia, the air force, the navy, the army and the paratroops. They 
followed with close attention as the Americans built bases, increased arms ship- 
; ments, and demonstrated their contempt for the Geneva Accords, which had 
i sought to limit these and to neutralize the area. The Vietnamese were also aware 
j that the economy in the south was becoming so closely tied to that of the United 
\ States and so dependent on various forms of aid that self-sufficiency was impos- 

I The Pentagon study says little about either the substance or the implication of 
I this type of "nationbuilding," even when discussing "the origins of insurgency in 
the south." At the beginning of the long section concerning 1954 to 1960, the 
I Pentagon authors set the stage for subsequent distortions of Vietnamese history 
i and continual omission of more complex analyses. 

j From the perspective of the United States, the origins of the insurgency 

I in South Vietnam raise four principal questions: 

I 1. Was the breakdown of the peace of 1954 the fault of the U.S., or 

j of the ambiguities and loopholes of the Geneva Accords? 

2. Was the insurgency in essence an indigenous rebellion against Ngo 
Dinh Diem's oppressive government, transformed by the intervention of 
first the U.S., and then the DRV? 

3. Or was it, rather, instigated, controlled, and supported from its in- 
ception by Hanoi? 

4. When did the U.S. become aware of the Viet Cong threat to South 
Vietnam's internal security, and did it attempt to counter it with its aid? 
(Gravel ed., 1:242) 

j The Pentagon analysts, typically, formulate "options" as interpretations of avail- 
able evidence; that the DRV intervened in response to escalation by President 

; Kennedy of attacks on southern resistance forces; that "the DRV manipulated 
the entire war. This is the official U.S. position, and can be supported. Nonethe- 
less, the case is not wholly compelling, especially for the years 1955-1959"; or 
that "the DRV seized an opportunity to enter an ongoing internal war in 1959 
prior to, and independent of, U.S. escalation" (Gravel ed., 1:243). 

The analyst, having dealt with caution with the second option to which his 
boss had always publicly subscribed, then predictably concludes that the truth lies 
somewhere between the second and third options. So much has been written 
about these issues that it seems pointless to start balancing evidence again here. 
But one should note that the Pentagon questions do not ask what was happening, 
why the United States felt compelled to intervene, or how the United States could 

1 have acted differently or not at all. 

Constant attention to secondary operational issues is the hallmark of the Penta- 

I gon study. The authors do not and cannot examine the unworkability of a situa- 

154 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

tion in which the United States chose the political leader, ran his campaigns, 
provided his backstairs CIA advisers, staffed his ministries, armed and trained his 
troops, set his budget requirements and income, coordinated his land and indus- 
trial policies, developed his factories, devised his tax schedules, educated his 
people abroad, wrote his textbooks from primary school through teachers college, 
manipulated his currency, and arranged his relations with neighboring states. The 
Pentagon authors also cannot grasp that such a state of affairs could arouse a 
politically conscious population to oppose outside manipulation and to struggle 
for social justice without planning to launch an attack on Hawaii. The Pentagon 
study would have been a far more rewarding work if it had dealt with any of 
these issues, and a far less frightening one if the reader had a sense that at least 
the authors if not the policymakers were aware of more than trivial implications. 

For example, in assessing the reasons for the failure of pacification, the Penta- 
gon authors tread a thin line between criticizing the Diem regime and wondering 
if a well-executed program might have had some success. 

This inconclusive finding, in turn, suggests that the sequential phases em- 
bodied in the doctrine of counterinsurgency may slight some very important 
problem areas. The evidence is not sufficient for an indictment; still less is 
one able to validate [sic] the counterinsurgent [sic] doctrine with reference , 
to a program that failed. The only verdict that may be given at this time j 
with respect to the validity of the doctrine is that used by Scots courts — \ 
"case not proved" (Gravel ed., II: 131 ) . \ 


The chicken-and-egg problem of whether loyalty precedes security or vice versa, | 

in someone else's country, is still unresolved. The unmistakable implication is | 

that experimentation should and will continue. And that is a lot of the problem : 
not only with the study but with the Pentagon. 

As the Pentagon study moves through the years, it becomes more cautious and i 

jargon laden, ending with a total paralysis of the will to analyze. The short-run, ' 

parochial thinking of the Pentagon authors fits well into the definition C. Wright ; 

Mills gave for "crackpot realism," that is, the warped self-sustaining logic which ' 

keeps catastrophic policies in operation because they have been in operation. The ! 
Pentagon study defends rather than analyzes how the American system works and 
reinforces the fallacious belief that the foreign-policy apparatus was functioning 

well in the service of noble causes. Many critics and more and more of the public i 
are beginning to realize that, on the contrary, 

. . . American foreign policy is all too readily out of control and aggressive 
while it defines itself as responsible and defensive. The other side sees the 
reality and responds. Failing to recognize this reality, Americans see the re- 
sponse of others as provocations.^ 

Those who wonder if this is true should look not only at the wars in Korea and 
Vietnam, but now in Thailand as well. Since the American takeover from the 
British in that traditionally "independent" state, there has been an increase in the 
use of Thailand as a base for the war in Indochina and for the growing American 
air war in response, it is alleged, to the provocations of the Thai liberation move- 
ment, which seeks to oust a corrupt and repressive regime. 

The Pentagon study, by its emphasis on the technical knowhow and alleged 

The Last Line of Defense 155 

highmindedness of the American efforts in Vietnam since 1940, contributes di- 

I rectly to an increased American paranoia; if noble, intelligent programs failed, 

j one must look for enemies and incompetents at home and abroad who thwarted 

I what would have benefited all. At the same time, in its massive unreadability, the 

I study strengthens the belief that issues of war and peace are too complex for 

I common folk to understand. If one survives through the first two volumes, the 

i glossary needed to cope with the later ones convinces the reader that only the 

I "experts" can and should determine vital policies. The study contributes to the 

I view that only those who are "experts" can criticize the government and, even 

1 more dangerously, that the words of "experts" are the only levers to change 

; society. The Pentagon Papers should on the contrary be used as evidence to 

!; destroy the myth of "expertise." The contents of the study make clear that the 

i policymakers, with very little information that was not available to the public, 

I read little and thought less. Those who seek to end the war and to change 

' America have thought carefully and read extensively; but they will not and need 

not read the Pentagon study. 

The bureaucrats who find meaning in the study and accept its facile excuses 

for deliberate and destructive policies can in truth claim to believe what they 

1 read. The victims of poverty and racism in America have heard all the excuses, 

j if not the details, before. Citizens who are concerned with America's role in the 

I world need more understanding of the connections between aggressive foreign 

» policy and domestic repression, between adventures undertaken to help American 

I capital overseas and neglect of Americans at home. None of this is to be found 

\ in the Pentagon study, which still does not explain what America did in Asia and 

' why it went so wrong. 

The GIs in Vietnam, anxious to leave, are face to face with what intellectuals 

; only write about. They neither know nor care about the history of upper-level 

; decisionmaking. Many of them strongly suspect that what they were fighting for 

j was never worth it. So many of them are responsible for "war crimes" that the 

i; term has no meaning. But they have grasped what most Americans, and particu- 

i larly the Pentagon authors, still cannot see; the whole war is a crime, against 

; them and against the Indochinese people. Why should it be necessary to experi- 

1 ence total immersion in the minutiae of decisionmaking in order to function as a 

j citizen? Reading the materials which helped trap Washington into a war that 

; seems as endless as it is destructive seems a poor way to begin changing policy 

t or processes. 

A ppendix 

A great many excellent bibliographies on Indochina, the war, and American foreign 
policy have appeared in the past few years. I am therefore not attempting here to 
give more than an outline of the sources on which I rely and the books which will be 

156 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

more valuable to read than the Pentagon study, regardless of what one has already 

On Vietnamese history, with attention to indigenous sources and scholarly criteria, 
the best works for the period up to 1954 are Le Thanh Khoi, Le Vietnam: Histoire et 
Civilisation (Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1955); David G. Marr, Vietnamese Anti- 
colonialism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971); Jean Chesneaux, Con- 
tribution a I'histoire de la nation vietnamienne (Paris: Editions Sociales, 1955); and 
Truong Buu Lam, Patterns of Vietnamese Response to Foreign Intervention, 1858 to 
1900 (New Haven: Yale Monograph Series #11, 1969). One will also gain a sym- 
pathetic understanding of how the Vietnamese view their own past and use it to build 
the present in Nguyen Khac Vien, Experiences Vietnameins (Paris: Editions Sociales, 
1968); and Truong Chinh, The August Revolution (Hanoi: Foreign Languages Press, 

On the roots and history of American foreign policy, particularly after World War 
II, the collection edited by William Appleman Williams, The Shaping of American 
Diplomacy, and his volume The Contours of American History are excellent. I have 
also used The Politics of War: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1943- 
1945, by Gabriel Kolko (New York: Random House, 1968); Walter LaFeber, Amer- 
ica, Russia and the Cold War; and David Horowitz, From Yalta to Vietnam. One can 
obtain further background on economic issues from, among other works, Harry Mag- 
doff, The Age of Imperialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1968); and Sidney 
Lens, The Military-Industrial Complex (Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1971). A revealing set 
of discussions and debates on America's past and current foreign-policy assumptions 
appears in Richard Pfeffer, editor, No More Vietnams? (New York: Harper & Row, 

Material on the American decision to oppose communism in Europe and to work 
through various Mafia groups will be found in Kolko's The Politics of War. The 
connection between Cold War politics, the American heroin problem and the war in 
Vietnam is examined and documented in Alfred W. McCoy, Cathleen Reade McCoy 
and Leonard P. Adams II, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (New York: Harper 
&Row, 1972). 

The best general summary which treats the Vietnamese issues, French policies and 
the growth of American intervention is George McTurnan Kahin and John W. Lewis, 
The United States in Vietnam (New York: Delta, 1969, second edition). For back- 
ground on Laos and the American war there, Nina S. Adams and Alfred W. McCoy, 
editors, Laos: War and Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1970); on Cambodian 
events, Jonathan S. Grant, Laurence A. G. Moss and Jonathan Unger, editors, Cam- 
bodia: The Widening War in Indochina (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970). The 
most readable and concise coverage of the issues is The Indochina Story, by the Com- 
mittee of Concerned Asian Scholars (New York: Bantam, 1970). 

For the many topics which the Pentagon study omits in its discussion of the period 
1945 to 1954, all the following books (or any one of them) are highly recommended: 
Bernard Fall, The Two Vietnams (New York: Praeger, 1963); Jean Lacouture, Ho 
Chi Minh: A Political Biography (New York: Random House, 1967); Lucien Bodard, 
The Quicksand War (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967); Philippe Devillers, Histoire du 
Vietnam de 1940 a 1952 (Paris: Editions de Seuil, 1952); Jean Chesneaux, editor. 
Tradition et revolution au Vietnam (Paris: Editions Anthropos, 1971). 

On French military and political problems in Vietnam, the works by Bernard Fall, 
Street Without Joy (Harrisburg: The Stackpole Company, 1961) and Hell in a Very 
Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu (New York: Vintage, 1966), are fascinating, 
readable and superbly documented analyses of what happened and what failed. Another 
account is by Jules Roy, The Battle of Dien Bien Phu (New York: Harper & Row, 
1965). Vietnamese strategy and military-political thinking are discussed carefully by 
Georges Boudarel in the Chesneaux volume mentioned above. 

For a balanced account of the Geneva Conference and the important events which 
followed: Philippe Devillers and Jean Lacouture, End of a War: Geneva 1954 (New 
York: Praeger, 1969). One gets more of a sense of the conference from the memoirs 
of Chester Cooper, The Last Crusade, than one does from the Pentagon account. 

The Last Line of Defense 157 

Reference to the importance of the July 14, 1954, position paper is found in Marek 
Thee, "Background Notes on the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Laos and the Vientiane 
Agreements of 1956-1957" in the volume edited by Adams and McCoy listed above. 

My own feeling is that the best book on China, the events of the 1940s and the 
American role is Graham Peck, Two Kinds of Time (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1950) 
which is the most readable and illuminating eyewitness report published. Jack Belden's 
China Shakes the World explains clearly why the Chinese Communists operated as they 
did and why they were accepted by the population. The period from 1940 to 1948 is 
dealt with carefully in Barbara Tuchmann, Stilwell and the American Experience in 
China. Herbert Feis, writing from government records as an ex-government official 
1 provides a detailed and useful account of American-Chinese relations in The China 
I Tangle. One gets a realistic and human account of the meaning of the Chinese revolu- 
I tion in William Hinton, Fan Shen: Revolution in a Chinese Village (New York: 
I Monthly Review Press, 1969), while America's perceptions of China are evaluated in 
the book America's Asia: Dissenting Essays on American-Asian Relations (New York: 
Pantheon, 1970). 

; The growth of the National Liberation Front in Vietnam has seldom been studied 
■ from other than the perspective of the counterinsurgency expert who inevitably misses 
the meaning and achievements of an organized revolutionary movement. Several ex- 
cellent studies in sympathy with the Vietnamese and based on accurate reporting and 
good research have been written by Wilfred Burchett: The Second Indochina War 
I (New York: International Publishers, 1970), The Furtive War (New York: Interna- 
j tional Publishers, 1963), and one of the first accounts to appear in English, Mekong 
J Upstream (1957). There are many excellent works in French, including those already 
il mentioned. 

j The Cambodian United National Front of Campuchea was formed after the 
American-South Vietnamese invasion of that country in 1970. Although there are few 
materials dealing with Cambodia in print, articles appear frequently in periodicals such 
as The Guardian (32 West 22 Street, New York, N.Y. 10010) and The Indochina 
Chronicle (1332 18 Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036). A new and fascinating 
! book on all aspects of Cambodia, with emphasis on the period after the overthrow of 
j Prince Norodom Sihanouk, is Charles Meyer, Derriere le Sourire Khmer (Paris: Plon, 
1972). Very few books have appeared on the current Thai situation, but an excellent 
; background is Frank C. Darhng, The United States and Thailand (Washington, D.C: 
\ Public Affairs Press, 1966), and articles appear frequently in Asian Releases, the bi- 
j weekly publication of Dispatch News Service (1826 R Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 
I 20009). Issues in Southeast Asian history and politics appear regularly in the Bulletin 
' of the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars (9 Sutter Street, San Francisco, 94104). 

The history of American interference in Asia with special reference to the Philippines 
I is treated well in William Pomeroy, American Neo-Colonialism in the Philippines (New 
; York: International Publishers, 1969). 

The Vietnam Courier and Vietnamese Studies, published in English in Hanoi, offer 
readable articles on a wide variety of things Vietnamese and an important means of 
learning about past and present events in all of Vietnam. Both publications are avail- 
able at university bookstores or from China Books and Periodicals (2929 24 Street, 
San Francisco, California 94110). The Foreign Language Publishing House in Hanoi 
has printed, in French and in English, The Real and the False Secrets of the Pentagon 
(Hanoi, Le Courrier du Viet Nam, 1971), matching revelations from the study with 
quotations from Vietnamese leaders speaking soon after the events described in the 
study, and long before publication of classified information, 
j Information on the brutality of the war has long been available in the United States 
; and much of it has been offered by non-antiwar writers. Air War, by Frank Harvey, 
|; and Ecocide in Indochina, edited by Barry Weisberg (San Francisco, Canfield Press, 
1970), are two of the most convincing accounts. Vietnamese reports of the suffering 
caused by the war appear in many periodicals cited above; in addition, Americans who 
i have worked in Vietnam have written about what they observed. The best of these 
IP books is by Don Luce and John Somer, Vietnam: The Unheard Voices (Ithaca: Cornell 
jj University Press, 1969). Discussions of American policies in warfare and strategic 

158 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

aims can be found in Vietnamese publications such as the DRV Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs, La politique d' intervention et d'aggression des Etats-Unis au Sud Vietnam 
(Hanoi, 1962) and in Neo Lao Hak Sat writings such as Twelve Years of U.S. Im- 
perialist Intervention and Aggression in Laos (1966). One often learns more details 
from these than from Western publications. 

1. David Welsh with David Horowitz, "Attorney at War — Clark Clifford." Ramparts, 
1968, p. 138. 

2. This information comes from the article by Henri Lanoue, "L'emprise economique 
des Etats-Unis sur I'lndochine avant 1950," pages 292-327 of Jean Chesneaux, ed., 
Tradition et Revolution au Vietnam. Paris: Anthropos, 1971. The statistics Lanoue 
offers are taken from L'Annuaire Statistique de I'lndochine, 1943-1946, and 1948, 
published by the French colonial government. 

3. Bernard Fall, The Two Vietnams: A Political and Military Analysis, 2nd edition. 
New York: Praeger, 1963, p. 111. 

4. Edward Friedman, "Problems of Dealing with an Irrational Power: America 
Declares War on China" in Edward Friedman and Mark Selden, eds., America's Asia: 
Dissenting Essays on American-Asian Relations. New York: Pantheon, 1970, p. 208. 


10. "Supporting" the French in Indonesia? 
A key to an intelHgent reading of Vol. I 
of the Gravel edition of the Pentagon Papers 

by Philippe Devillers 

United States involvement in the Vietnam war is said to have originated in 
President Truman's decision to provide assistance to France and the three Indo- 
chinese "Associated States" (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) in the pivotal month of 
February 1950. 

Actually, a turning point, a crucial dilemma, was reached when the United 
States was asked by France to recognize the "Associated States," to whom sov- 
ereignty had just been transferred. While there was no particular problem with 
regard to Cambodia and Laos, Vietnam, on the contrary, did present a serious 
one. France wished to introduce into the community of nations a "State of Viet- 
nam" headed by Bao Dai (a former emperor), but at the same time, Ho Chi 
Minh, President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, claimed (on January 
14, 1950) that he and the DRV were "the only legal government of the Vietnam- 
ese people." The DRV was recognized as such by Peking and Moscow (January 
1950), a fact which hastened the American decision. 

The perception of a powerful Communist threat to American world interests, 
the collapse of the Chinese Nationalist government, the apparent alignment of 
People's China with Moscow indeed combined to induce Washington to action. 
Southeast Asia seemed to be "the target of a coordinated offensive directed by 
the Kremlin" (Gravel ed., 1:186). U.S. policy was set to block further "Rus- 
sian" expansion in Asia, the domino principle being at the root of this policy. 

Indochina was of special importance "because it was the only area adjacent to 
China which contained a large European army which was in armed conflict with 
'communist' forces" (Gravel ed., 1:82). "The attempt of the patently Communist 
Ho Chi Minh regime to evict the French from Indochina was seen as part of the 
Southeast Asian manifestation of the communist world-wide aggressive intent. 
The resistance of France to Ho, therefore, was seen as a crucial stand on the line 
along which the West would contain Communism" (Gravel ed., 1:81 ) . 

French ratification of the transfer of sovereignty, the French government's re- 
quest for American aid in Vietnam (February 16, 1950), prompted the United 
States to action. Discussing the issue, the National Security Council, in NSC 64 
(February 27, 1950), determined: "It is important to United States security in- 
terests that all practicable measures be taken to prevent further communist ex- 
pansion in Southeast Asia. Indochina is a key area of Southeast Asia and is under 
immediate threat" (Gravel ed., 1:76). 

Urged by the then Deputy Under-Secretary of State Dean Rusk to consider 
"the strategic aspects of the situation," the Secretary of Defense, in a memo- 
randum for the President dated March 6, 1950, described U.S. options as follows: 

Copyright © 1972 by Philippe Devillers 

160 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

The French are irrevocably committed in Indochina and are supporting 
the three states as a move aimed at achieving non-Communist political sta- 
bility . . . The choice confronting the United States is to support the legal 
[sic] governments in Indochina or to face the extension of Communism over 
the remainder of the continental area of Southeast Asia and possibly west- 
ward (Gravel ed., 1 : 1 95 ) . 

On May 8, 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson announced an aid program 
for France and the Associated States of Indochina. Thus, six weeks before the 
Korean war, a crucial decision was made which "directly involved [the United 
States] in the developing tragedy in Vietnam" (Gravel ed., 1:42). The die was 

The Pentagon Papers introduce an impressive amount of information and docu- 
ment well a period which was neglected (for lack of space) by the New York 
Times editors. With about 240 pages of "summary" and 230 pages of documents, 
this is an essential book for understanding American policy and the U.S. decision- 
making process. However, even in the "full edition," the perspective is disappoint- 
ing because many important documents are missing^ and this gap probably will 
prevent the reader from getting a clear idea of the chain of events leading to the 
early (but capital) American decisions. Also there is a surprising absence of 
analysis of American motivations and interests. In this respect, a key to the read- 
ing of the Pentagon Papers is useful because the official language must be de- 
coded in order to determine precisely which American interests were being served 
when decisions were made. 


When the United States decided to join (and support) France on the Indochina 
front, a war had been going on there for three long years. And, far from being 
a small conflict, it had already become a major issue in the world power-game. 

Much has been said about U.S. policies in Indochina during and immediately 
after World War II. Did the United States back the Viet Minh, first against the 
pro-Vichy administration and then against de Gaulle's representatives? Did it sup- 
port policies that aimed to replace a colonial administration by "international 
trustees"? Did it really back France to reimpose French colonial power, as the 
Viet Minh said? 

The Pentagon Papers seek to restore the balance. "Neither interpretation 
squares with the record," they say. The United States was less concerned over 
Indochina and less purposeful than critics assume. As a matter of fact, ambiva- 
lence and ambiguity had characterized U.S. policy regarding Indochina 
during World War II, and this was the root of a long misunderstanding between 
Paris and Washington. On the one hand, Washington repeatedly reassured the 
French about the return of their colonial possessions; on the other, in the name 
of self-determination, it stood for trusteeship or independence. But trusteeship is 
now said to have foundered as early as March 1943, and as of April 3, 1945 (a 
week before the death of Roosevelt), the new doctrine of trusteeship left any 
decision on Indochina to France. 

Truman did not question French sovereignty over Indochina, but wanted to 
know more about Paris intentions with regard to establishing civil liberties and 

"Supporting" the French in Indonesia? 161 

I increasing measures of self-government in Indochina, before formulating a 
|! declaration of policy. He did not want the French to reassert control by force. 

In November 1945, Washington was satisfied with French explanations and 
I pledges that, once order was restored throughout Indochina, the "natives" would 
I be given a greater voice in their affairs while new agreements would be concluded 
with the individual states. 

From the Pentagon Papers, it appears that the United States did not feel con- 
Ij cerned about the turn events took in Indochina after the Japanese surrender. They 
i state simply that "the DRV ruled as the only civil government in all of Vietnam 
for a period of about 20 days. On 23 September 1945 . . . French forces over- 
threw the local DRV government, and declared French authority restored in 
[ Cochinchina" (Gravel ed., 1:16). They mention that Ho Chi Minh sent eight 
\ messages to the United States between October 1945 and February 1946, but that 
i the United States did not reply. They go on to report "recognition of the DRV 
I as a Free State, part of the French Union," through an agreement signed on 
; March 6, 1946, between Ho Chi Minh and Jean Sainteny, the French representa- 
I live in Hanoi, omitting however one of its most important clauses on self-deter- 
l| mination of Cochinchina. In April 1946, the United States acknowledged to 
|i France that all of Indochina had reverted to French control. Allied occupation 
1 of Indochina was officially over. "Thereafter, the problems of U.S. policy toward 
j Vietnam were dealt with in the context of the U.S. relationship with France" 

! (Graveled. ,1:3; emphasis ours). 
This is fundamental for a sound understanding of the situation: Indochina was 
not in the same theater as China and Japan (in which West Coast and Texan in- 
i terests hoped to play a major role), but part of the "European Theater," in which 
I France played a capital role. 

I Washington seemed satisfied with the "peaceful cooperation between France 
and the DRV in North Vietnam for eight months," but the Papers do not detail 

j or discuss the issues at stake at either the Dalat or the Fontainebleau conferences. 

j They mention a casual contact between Ho Chi Minh and the U.S. ambassador 

I in Paris (the Catholic Jefferson Caffery). The September 14 (1946) agreement 
between the French government and Ho Chi Minh, about a ceasefire and self- 

j determination in the South as a quid pro quo with restoration of a federal eco- 

li nomic authority in Indochina, is hardly mentioned, nor the subsequent failure to 

j implement it. 

When tensions developed between Paris and Hanoi, Washington apparently did 
its best to help, as is shown by an extremely interesting telegram, dated December 
I 5, 1946, from Dean Acheson to the U.S. representative in Hanoi, warning against 
j violence in Vietnam, stressing the dangers of provocateurs and the risks of a 
' conflict, as well as the possibilities for compromise (Gravel ed., 1:29). And then, 
on December 19, 1946, the North Vietnamese attacked. 

In a memorandum to Undersecretary Acheson (December 23), John Carter 
Vincent, Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs, in a very sharp analysis 
indeed, recommended that the French be reminded of inherent dangers in the 
situation. However, the conflict was already there, and the United States regarded 
it as fundamentally a matter for French resolution. 

The French government, in a message of January 8, 1947, assured that their 
"principal objective . . . was to restore order and reopen communications . . . 
and that after this was done, [they] would be prepared to discuss matters with the 
' Vietnamese" and to live up to the agreements of March 6 and September 14. 

The Americans wanted to be reassured; they accepted the French version, and 


162 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

in a probably sincere desire to be helpful, did try to prevent the conflict from 
widening. Secretary of State George Marshall said he hoped that "a pacific basis 
of adjustment of the difficulties could be found." 

Early in February 1947, while General Leclerc recommended a political solu- 
tion, the French government's position shifted to state that "before any negotia- 
tions, it was necessary to have a military decision' (emphasis ours). The U.S. 
ambassador in Paris, however, received revealing directives. He was given in- 
structions first to reassure French Premier Ramadier that Indochina was of course 
a matter of French sovereignty, but the French certainly knew that colonialism 
was dead, as shown by their recent agreements with Vietnam. Washington re- 
marked that French "understanding" of the Vietnamese position was more pro- 
nounced in Paris than in Saigon, but understood that the Vietnamese had attacked 
on December 19 and that the French had no reason to be generous. Furthermore, 
Ho Chi Minh was a Communist, and the United States did not desire to see 
colonial empires replaced or controlled by the Kremlin. They wanted to remain 
aloof, and had no solution to suggest (Gravel ed., 1:4, 30-31, 50). 

The solution of neutrality was thus chosen. The issue of Vietnam was com- 
pletely overshadowed by the role France could be expected to play, on the West- 
ern side, in Europe. The Conference of "Big Four" foreign ministers opened in 
Moscow on March 10, 1947, and the Truman Doctrine was enunciated on March 
12. Even if "the U.S. knew little of what was transpiring inside Vietnam," as the 
Papers say (Gravel ed., 1:51 ), it is true that it "certainly cared less about Vietnam 
than about France." 

It was within the French sphere, and by the French themselves, that the elimi- 
nation of the Communists in Vietnam had to be achieved. Ramadier's government 
favored "independence and unity" for Vietnam. In accordance with Admiral 
d'Argenlieu's suggestions, it turned then to a political solution: restoration of 
Bao Dai, the former emperor. It was with him, not Ho Chi Minh, that the French 
decided to negotiate for a political settlement with Vietnamese nationalists. With 
French encouragement, groups of Vietnamese right-wing "nationalists" began 
advocating the installation of Bao Dai as the head of an anti-Vietminh Vietnamese 

Very early in the war, the French had indeed raised the specter of communism 
and of Red conspiracy. More recently Admiral d'Argenlieu had stressed that 
France's role in Indochina was primarily to stem the expansion of communism 
there. Implicitly Washington had agreed with this aspect of French policy and 
favored a non-Communist political solution, even if, in order to get it, the French 
had to resort to "Vietnamization" of the conflict, as was proposed, for the first 
time (although the word was not used), in Directive No. 9 (January 4, 1947) 
of the Political Section of the French High Commissioner's Office in Saigon.^ 
Actually, the French approached Bao Dai with terms not unlike those accepted 
by Ho Chi Minh (unity, and autonomy within Indochinese Federation and the 
French Union), "provided Bao Dai formed a government which would furnish 
a clear alternative to Ho Chi Minh" (Gravel ed., 1:25; emphasis ours). 

The United States could then go ahead. On May 13, 1947, a few days after 
the Communists were ousted from the government in Paris, and immediately 
after the "rejection" by Ho Chi Minh of the French ultimatum for surrender, a 
Department of State guidance affirmed that in Southeast Asia the United States 
was "in [the] same boat as [the] French" (Gravel ed., 1:31), that to prevent 
trouble, it sought "close association between newly-autonomous peoples and 
powers which have long been responsible [for] their welfare." This association, 
however, should be voluntary, avoid bitterness and frustration. Although the 

"Supporting" the French in Indonesia? 163 

United States would not interfere in French affairs, it wanted to let it be known 
that it felt concerned. It was important to find "true representatives of Vietnam," 
and not impotent puppets. A restoration of Bao Dai could do harm because it 
would show the world that the democracies were reduced to resorting to mon- 
archy as a weapon against communism. It made clear that the United States 
foresaw France's losing Indochina if it persisted in ignoring American advice, 
and bypassing "truly nationalist groups" able to induce actual Vietminh sup- 
porters to come to the Western side. 

The "True Doctrine" was formulated, but for a long time French and Amer- 
icans were to differ as to who were the "true nationalists." 

What is really appalling in the Pentagon Papers is that there is not the slightest 
hint that there was in Washington, at any level, a critical examination of the 
French theses or versions of events, as well as of the legality of the French 
policy from an "international law," or "peoples' law" (jus gentium) point of 
view. It is amazing that such a poor analysis of the origins of a major war could 
be made by "experts" occupying high and crucial positions. Summaries and 
documents never go to the roots and remain for the most part superficial. 

At the base of the whole of the "Indochina tragedy" is the fact that the West 
(France first and the United States afterwards) ignored the evidence that the 
DRV was the new, but legal, form of the Empire of Annam, a thousand-year-old 
j nation-state, one of the oldest in Asia, although it had been enslaved for eighty 
! years under the guise of a French protectorate. As the Papers acknowledge, the 
j DRV enjoyed full independence for a few weeks after September 2, 1945, re- 
\ storing between North and South a unity that had been broken by France eighty 
\ years before. 

j It was fairly reasonable for the United States to abstain from interference in 
j the French attempt to seek new relationships with the different states of Indo- 
i china. A new agreement was concluded between France and Cambodia as early 
j as January 7, 1946. The March 6, 1946, agreement was signed with Ho Chi Minh 
; as leader of Vietnam (the new name of Annam) and in it France did "recognize 
the Republic of Vietnam as a Free State with its Government, its Parliament, its 
Treasury, its Army, within the framework of the Indochinese Federation and 
j of the French Union." This event, which was of international significance, was 
I hailed throughout the world, from Chiang Kai-shek to Chou En-lai and Attlee, 
j| as a sign of great French wisdom and realism. The French concluded other 
j agreements with the DRV government: a military one (April 3), a few economic 
I accords, and a general modus vivendi (September 14, 1946). It was decided that, 
i despite transformation by the French of the colony of Cochinchina into an au- 
! tonomous republic, the people of Cochinchina would freely decide their relation- 
i ship with the DRV. 

\ The Ho Chi Minh government was therefore the only legal government of 
I Vietnam and there was no challenge of this fact from the French side. Former 

I( emperor Bao Dai had abdicated (not under force) on August 25, 1945, and 
had become Ho Chi Minh's "Supreme Adviser." Ho Chi Minh had been received 
, and welcomed in Paris as Head of State and Government (July-August 1946) 
I and in this capacity he had signed agreements with the French government. There 
was no further problem for anybody, including the U.S. Ambassador, about meet- 
ing with him. 
How is it then, that because a confusing conflict suddenly flared up about 
customs and road traffic between the DRV and the French High Commission in 
Saigon (and their military in Tonkin), the DRV government ceased overnight to 
be "legal" or, to quote the Papers, "the DRV government [sic, emphasis ours] 

164 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

took to the hills to assume the status of a shadow state" (Gravel ed., 1:47)? In 
fact, just because of the December 19 "attack"? The Pentagon Papers, however, 
cautiously add: "The issue of who was the aggressor has never been resolved" 
(Gravel ed., 1:22). 

Actually this was pure French right-wing officials' arrogance. Alleging Viet- 
namese breach of faith, the Bidault government and High Commissioner Admiral 
d'Argenlieu decided that the Ho government, as such, no longer existed! One 
may wonder if the explanation should not be looked for in the mind of Premier 
Georges Bidault. It has to be borne in mind that when things began to worsen 
in Morocco, in 1953, Mr. Bidault suddenly decided to depose Sultan Mohammed 
V and replace him by Ben Arafa. The same psychological process could have 
led him to believe (six years earlier) that since "Sultan Ho Chi Minh" was bad, 
it was necessary to get rid of him and replace him by a more amenable man, as 
the French generals and governors had done with the Vietnamese emperors be- 
tween 1885 and 1916. Nineteenth-century colonial thinking was still prevalent 
among right-wing French politicians in 1946/47, and it influenced their master- 
plans. Looking for an alternative to the "opponents" or "resisters" led to "Viet- 
namization" of the conflict, i.e., helping right-wing puppets or allies of the West 
to "replace" leftist nationalists. 

The trouble was precisely that although the United States "regretted" the 
risks inherent in the new conflict, it neither challenged the French legal position 
nor interfered in the French field of responsibility. For reasons of sheer oppor- 
tunism, the United States failed to tell France that it could not ignore the legal 
government of Vietnam and especially that it should not look for an alternative, 
through "Vietnamization" of the war. Actually, the United States agreed with 
this French course, and abdicated then all principles of morality. This essential, 
fundamental aspect of the story is totally lacking in the Pentagon Papers, and 
therefore remains practically hidden from the American public. 

Why did the United States endorse (at least implicitly) the French position? 

Because it gave priority to the "Battle for Europe"! France was an essential 
piece in the American game in Europe, and at the time France was causing 
some anxiety in Washington because it was still trying to remain unaligned and 
independent between the Soviet Union and the Anglo-American bloc. Also, a 
powerful Communist party was participating in the French government at that 
moment. Taking sides just then in favor of Ho Chi Minh, in this colonial crisis, 
would certainly have infuriated the French right wing and made it anti-American, 
unwilling to come, under the Western banner, against communism. The Com- 
munists would have exploited U.S. interference for their own benefit. 

Hardening of anticommunism in the United States, plus the priority given to 
the "necessary containment of Soviet Russia," made it impossible to weaken the 
French and allow them to be replaced in Indochina by "Kremlin agents." There 
was no risk, however, in having them replaced, in the long run, by "true na- 
tionalists." At that moment, these latter were in China, protected by the Chinese 
Kuomintang and their friends in General Donovan's OSS, with support of the 
California-based China Lobby. The problem now was to decide how to manage 
to get the Chinese- American agents (the "true nationalists") aboard the French 
"boat," Bao Dai, and under this cover, achieve successful "Vietnamization" of 
the conflict. 

The Pentagon Papers do not say a word about the activities of the "true 
nationalists" at that time, or about the OSS-CIA plans. The Defense Department 
probably had no such files. The writers, consequently, could only offer poor, 
very poor, excuses for the choice Washington made in 1946-1947. 

"Supporting" the French in Indonesia? 165 

Here are two examples: "No French government is likely to have survived a 
genuinely liberal policy toward Ho in 1945 or 1946. Even French Communists 
then favored redemption [5/c] of control in Indochina" (Gravel ed., 1:52). Fur- 
ther, they say that U.S. support for Ho Chi Minh would have involved per- 
spicacity and risk, "a perspicacity unique in U.S. history," but Washington could 
not take the risk of having a domino fall. So "the path of prudence rather than 
the path of risk seemed the wisest choice." 

This was, however, also a risk. As the Papers say, "Washington and Paris did 
not focus on the fact of Ho's strength, only on the consequences of his rule": 
Ho was a Communist. . . . 

In fact, the record shows that the United States well knew what was at stake, 
and how extensive was the strength of Ho. In an interesting analysis ("The Char- 
acter and Power of the Vietminh. A Summary"), the Pentagon Papers throw 
light on how highly appraised Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh were. The Viet- 
minh is described as "the principal vehicle for Vietnamese nationalism and anti- 
French colonialism," and Ho Chi Minh as "the only Vietnamese wartime leader 
with a national following" (Gravel ed., 1:49). Elsewhere the report adds: "It 
seems likely that in the absence of the French, the Vietminh, through its gov- 
ernmental creation, the DRV, would have overridden indigenous, tribal, religious 
and other opposition in short order" (Gravel ed., 1:43). 

Unfortunately for Washington, the ICP (Indochinese Communist Party) was 
the controlling element in the Vietminh, and the French exploited this fact in 
order to restore by force their control over Vietnam. Consequently "Ho again 
became the head of Viet resistance and the Vietminh became the primary na- 
tionalist protagonist. Hence Ho Chi Minh, both on his own merits and out of 
lack of competition, became the personification of Vietnamese nationalism" 
(Gravel ed., 1:49). 

Moreover, the Vietminh was not even anti-American. In the fall of 1948, the 
Office of Intelligence Research (Department of State) wrote a survey of Com- 
munist and American influence in Southeast Asia in which it said that "evidence 
of Kremlin-directed conspiracy was found in virtually all countries except Viet- 
nam." It added that "since December 19, 1946, there have been continuous con- 
flicts between French forces and the nationalist government of Vietnam [emphasis 
ours]. This government is a coalition in which avowed communists hold influen- 
tial positions. Although the French admit the influence of this government, they 
have consistently refused to deal with its leader. Ho Chi Minh, on the grounds 
that he is a Communist. To date the Vietnam press and radio have not adopted 
an anti-American position. . . . Although the Vietnam radio has been closely 
watched for a new position toward the U.S., no change has appeared so far" 
(Gravel ed., 1:34). 

There was clearly an "anomaly" in the Soviet conspiracy, but the State De- 
partment rejected as unlikely the possibility that the Vietnamese Communists 
might not be subservient to Moscow's foreign policy. 

However, although French chances of crushing Vietnamese nationalism were 
limited, Washington decided to back French policy of "Vietnamization" on the 
basis of anticommunism. This meant that in a different context of course, the 
United States approved a policy which was not basically different from those 
followed by the Third Reich in Norway {with Quisling), or by Japan in occupied 
China {with the Nanking government of Wang Ching-wei). It was the policy of 
imposing a regime and policy on a country through Quisling or puppet govern- 
ments. As the Papers say: "When the U.S. was faced with an unambiguous 
choice between a policy of anticolonialism and a policy of anticommunism, it 

166 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

chose the latter" (Gravel ed., 1:179). This was to be confirmed again in the 
spring of 1950. 

By completely omitting the crucial legal aspect of the conflict, the Pentagon 
Papers tend to give some legitimacy to the French action, because supporting 
the French in the name of anticommunism is the only presentable basis for the 
American involvement in Vietnam. Within the framework of French sovereignty, j 
everything became honorable, but it is precisely the upturn given their Indochina 
policy by the French right-wing and Socialist parties which is at the root of the 
tragedy. , 

Taking for granted that the Soviet Union was "The Enemy," and that the 
struggle for "containment" had to be fought all over the world, it was legitimate 
to help France resist Communist "subversion" in its colonies. As long as Moscow 
did not push too much in Asia, it was believed that France would do the job in 
Indochina. It could get rid of the Communists there through its own ways and 
means. But when Russia "conquered" China with Maoism and made it a "Slav 
Manchukuo" (Dean Rusk dixit), Red China became the main danger, and France 
could no longer cope with it alone. The United States had to come in and help. 
Anyway it was the Joint Chief of Staff's belief, early in 1950, that "attainment of ] 
United States objectives in Asia can only be achieved by ultimate success in i 
China." ^ j 

Basically, this was the theme of the famous "China lobby." Nobody tells us, || 
in this volume, why "the Communists" won in China and why they came to be j 
hostile to the United States. There is not a word about the American intervention | 
in China or of the failure of "Sinization"' of the conflict there. \ 

Fundamental omissions thus make the Pentagon Papers rather disappointing | 
on the "French period." The Papers give rare clues as to how mistakes or mis- | 
calculations developed in the formation and implementation of policies but offer 
only very superficial insights into the deep, real causes or origins of the war. 
However, it is clear to every objective historian that the United States cautiously ! 
but graciously supported France on the wrong road on which it was embarking. ! 
In Washington, France and the United States were indeed considered to be "in i 
the same boat." j 




While cautiously endorsing, as early as February 1947, French policy in Indo- 
china, the Truman Administration was nevertheless skeptical and even believed ; 
that the French were unrealistic, that they did not have "the technique" to wage ' 
an efficient anti-Communist battle, and would eventually fail. 

In its opinion, France had to win the support of the "true nationalists," i.e., | 
anti-Communist Nationalists.^ It was prompUy made clear by Washington that i 
France would eventually lose Indochina if it did not offer the "true nationalists" ij 
enough (independence, etc.) to induce the Vietminh supporters to come to their \ 
side. The French, however, were reluctant to yield anything significant to Bao t 
Dai. ji 

The Papers briefly report that Bao Dai was "convinced that the French situa- - 
tion in Indochina was sufficiently desperate that they would have to honor com- ; 
mitments they made to him" and that he also "seems to have believed that he I 
could attract American support and material aid — a view which may have « 
stemmed in part from a 1947 Life magazine article by William C. Bullitt, the 

"Supporting" the French in Indonesia? 167 

influential former U.S. ambassador to France, endorsing Bao Dai as a solution 
to France's dilemma" (Gravel ed., 1:25). 

Actually, while remaining a private person without a clear mandate,^ Bao Dai 
negotiated new agreements with the French. Paris had been urged by the Amer- 
icans to reach "a non-Communist solution in Indochina based on cooperation of 
true nationalists of that country" (September 1948) and warned against at- 
tempting to set up a puppet government (January 17, 1949). On March 8, 1949, 
France recognized Vietnam as an independent state within the French Union 
and agreed to a merger of Cochinchina with Vietnam. Bao Dai returned to Viet- 
nam and appointed himself head of the newly formed "State of Vietnam." 

On May 10, 1949, the French raised the problem of U.S. aid and recognition. 
They stressed that a decision was urgent because of the Communist advance in 
China. In their opinion, there was no alternative to Bao Dai. 

In Washington, however, there was no enthusiasm for and even reluctance to 
support the French and Bao Dai in Vietnam. To the United States, "the State of 
Vietnam [had become] a camouflage for continued French rule in Indochina" 
(Gravel ed., 1:59). Nevertheless, there were, in 1949, significant behind-the-scene 
negotiations and agreements between American and French banking concerns 
on future cooperation in "overseas development" and this apparently encouraged 
the New York and possibly San Francisco financial and economic groups to 
support the French position in Indochina. The "loss" of China accelerated the 
process: Southeast Asia could now be a substitute market. 

At the end of 1949, after the Jessup fact-finding mission, a new poHcy was 
formulated: increase the ability of the free peoples to resist direct and indirect 
aggression and to maintain internal security; prevent Southeast Asia from being 
overrun by communism and encourage European friends to make use of their 
knowledge and experience and Asian non-Communist states to join the UK and 
the U.S. The New York economic establishment would be happy to support such 
schemes because its "European friends" would give it advantage over the com- 
petitive West Coast interests in the area. The National Security Council, on 
December 30, 1949, approved: it was necessary to bring the "nationalists" to 
back Bao Dai, to increase the Western orientation of the area, to block further 
Communist expansion in Asia. This was the green light for recognition of Bao 

But the fatal decision of February 1950 turned out badly. Who should be the 
recipient of the aid? Bao Dai or France? And consequently whose policies would 
U.S. aid support? How could the Americans insist upon having what they called 
a "democratic-nationalist government" in Vietnam? A decision was difficult. The 
French were intransigent, opposed direct U.S. aid for the Vietnamese forces, 
even though they could not instill real determination and elan into the Bao Dai 
army. Strong-willed French military commanders, being suspicious of the United 
States were determined on a military victory and believed they could win, pro- 
vided they got American weaponry. 

Washington well knew that the Bao Dai regime was neither popular nor 
efficient and that the French also were very reluctant to yield power to Bao Dai. 
Americans got impatient and, going over the head of the French, tried to en- 
courage Bao Dai to play a more active role. The Papers publish an extraordinary 
message from Dean Acheson to Edmund Gullion, U.S. representative in Saigon 
(October 18, 1950), directing him to tell Bao Dai what he should do: abandon 
neutralism and passivity, and fight the Communists (Gravel ed., 1:70-71 ). 

The U.S. efforts were in vain, and critics (probably from the West Coast 
circles and interests) began to say that the United States was not using enough 

168 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon .Papers/Vol. V 

leverage to move the French toward granting genuine Vietnamese independence. 

The Defense Department Papers answered the critics by alleging that during 
this period, because of "the primacy accorded in U.S. policy to the containment 
of communism in Southeast Asia" (Gravel ed., 1:75), France had a stronger 
bargaining position than the United States. 

This, however, is only part of the truth. In fact, the U.S. interests in Europe 
(mainly from the East Coast, i.e.. New York) had given France prominence and 
this had led to a pragmatic alliance between the New York and French right- 
wing bourgeoisie against the Soviet Union and "socialism" in general. This im- 
plied that New York could force the California-based Far Eastern lobby to re- 
spect French interests in Indochina and support Bao Dai. To the extent that the 
United States needed and pursued an anti-Soviet policy in Europe, and wanted 
to discourage neutralism in Paris, it had to respect and even to support French 
Indochinese policy. 

As the Papers rightly say: 

Neither NATO nor the Marshall Plan offered usable fulcrums for influencing 
French policy on Indochina. Both were judged by the U.S. government and 
public to be strongly in the American national interest at a time when the 
Soviet threat to Western Europe, either through overt aggression or internal 
subversion, was clearly recognizable. A communist take-over in France was 
a real possibility. . . . Thus, an American threat to withdraw military and 
economic support to metropolitan France if it did not alter its policies in 
Indochina was not plausible. To threaten France with sanctions . . . would 
have jeopardized a U.S. interest in Europe more important than any in 
Indochina (Gravel ed., 1:76). 

Actually, the real bargaining had to take place, within the U.S. economic 
empire, between the European-oriented interests and the Asian-oriented ones. 
The strength of the former allowed France to resist pressures about any policies 
in Indochina. There was incompatibility, not (as the Papers allege) in the two 
stands of U.S. policy, but between the foreign policies of the two main factions 
of the American Economic Establishment. 

Therefore, rather than aiding France as a colonial power or a fellow NATO 
ally, the rationale for the decision to aid the French was simply to keep Indo- 
china in the Western domain, to avert its sliding into the Communist camp. As 
far as the distribution of "shares" between the West Coast and New York inter- 
ests was concerned, they would determine that later. Both agreed that, for the 
moment, the United States should support independence for the Associated States 
of Indochina, encouraging the French to grant them full independence and to 
train good public servants for them. 

Certainly, it was uncomfortable for the United States to find itself "in the 
same bed as the French" (Gravel ed., 1:76), and Washington was also quite 
aware of the high sensitivity of the French to any interference in their internal 
affairs, but it thought the deal was worthwhile. 

With the outbreak of the Korean war, holding the line in Southeast Asia be- 
came essential to American security interests, and "the French struggle in Indo- 
china came far more than before to be seen as an integral part of the contain- 
ment of Communism in that region of the world. Accordingly, the United States 
intensified and enlarged its program of aid in Indochina." But "a consequence 
of the Korean war, and particularly the Chinese intervention, was that China 
replaced the Soviet Union as the principal source of the perceived communist 

"Supporting" the French in Indonesia? 169 

threat in Southeast Asia . . ." (Gravel ed., 1:82). This suited perfectly well the 
West Coast economic interests: the Chinese Communists were their main ene- 
mies. They now had good leverage against New York, because the Pentagon 
would now support them more than before. As the Papers clearly state: "The 
French [in Indochina] were, in a way, fighting a U.S. battle" (Gravel ed., 1:79) 
and it was no longer useful to know who was right in Vietnam and what the 
Vietnamese people might think or prefer. 

Primarily, however, it was still France's war, and French leverage had not 
weakened. France could now use the threat of negotiating a pulling out from 
Vietnam ["an important instrument of blackmail," the Papers say (Gravel ed., 
1:79)], because the U.S. leverage in Europe was losing strength. Washington 
and New York wanted to rearm West Germany against the Soviet Union to 
alleviate the U.S. "burden." French opposition to German rearmament led to a 
compromise: the EDC Project (European Defense Community). The purpose 
was to "envelope" a West German army into an integrated six-nation army for 
the defense of Western Europe (thus making possible a reduction, not the 
elimination, of American ground forces in Europe and a sharing of the "burden"). 
Because of the necessity to push the EDC through, there was in Washington 
further reluctance to antagonize the French in Indochina. But the French gave 
EDC a far lower priority than expected. They did not feel any longer that there 
was a serious threat in Europe; they were wary of Germany and they gave low 
probability to a Soviet attack. They further stressed that there was a conflict be- 
tween EDC (West German rearmament and the corresponding French balancing 
effort in Europe) and a massive French drive for victory in Vietnam. EDC could 
start only after 2l French victory in Indochina, they said. 

The Papers stress Washington's poor bargaining position: "The U.S. became 
virtually a prisoner of its own policy. Containment of communism, concern for 
the French in relation to the postwar Europe of NATO, EDC, and the Soviet 
threat in the West, combined with a fear . . . that a French withdrawal from 
Indochina would leave exposed the U.S. flank in Korea, all compelled the U.S. 
to continue aid" (Gravel ed., 1:203). 

It can thus safely be said there was great ambiguity in the relationship of 
France and the United States concerning Indochina, but it was not clear that 
there was, as the Papers write, "incompatibility of American and French ob- 
jectives" (Gravel ed., 1:80). Were these objectives and interests really and bas- 
ically different? While the United States seemed only concerned with the contain- 
ment of communism and restricting the spread of Chinese influence in Southeast 
Asia (to protect potential or future markets) the French were not simply fight- 
ing to contain communism, but primarily to maintain their influence in Indo- 
china and to avoid a crumbling of the French Union. They could not be expected 
(as the United States wished) to just "win the war" and then gracefully with- 
draw. And if their enemy now was the same as the United States', they stiU 
nourished a deep suspicion that the United States desired above all to supplant 
them in Southeast Asia. 

The Pentagon Papers shed some light on the ultimate American goals. The 
United States, involved in the Korean war, could not afford to wage another war 
in Indochina at the same time. But it was willing to help in the formation of 
national armies (this would increase the influence of the military). This would 
require much time and it was necessary to have the French remain there at least 
until these national armies were ready, because no American troops were available. 
I, A National Security Council paper (NSC 64/1, dated November 28, 1950), writ- 
ten just after Chinese intervention in Korea and the French disaster in North 

170 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

Tonkin and which was to remain the basis of U.S. policy toward Indochina for 
the duration of the French war, set short- and long-term objectives: deny Indo- 
china to communism, promote self-government there, help in the formation and 
training of national armies. This policy, it was added, would be reconsidered if 
France abandoned the struggle (Gravel ed., 1: 198-200). 

In the meantime, there was an apparently serious fear of Chinese intervention i 
in Indochina, and although this fear was later to subside, the National Security ; 
Council in 1952 listed "courses of action" to defend Indochina (in such a case) : 
with aerial and naval action against China itself (which was to be the point ; 
of "ultimate success"). Thus, the anti-Peking lobby concentrated on the less 
probable hypothesis (presenting risks of major and even world conflict) rather 
than on the more likely course, a deterioration of the French military position, i 
which would have to be alleviated, but without giving the United States the 
leadership or relieving France of its basic responsibility for the defense of the 
Associated States. ; 

Assuming power in January 1953, the Republican Eisenhower-Nixon Admin- i 
istration proposed a "new, positive foreign policy," but designated China as 
"the principal enemy," linking from the start Indochina with Korea. j 

The Vietminh invasion of Laos and increasing war-weariness in France were i 
a source of worry for Washington. Indochina's importance to U.S. "security 
interests" in the Far East was now taken for granted by all American factions, j 
Its "loss" would not be permitted. Although Stalin's death had introduced pos- • 
sible flexibility in Communist policies and let the French wonder why they I 
couldn't have in Indochina an armistice like the one the United States had just 
concluded in Korea, Dulles urged the French to drive toward military victory ! 
rather than to look to a ceasefire with the DRV. He barred negotiations until ; 
France had "markedly improved its bargaining position through action on the 
battlefield" (Gravel ed., 1:55). 

Of course Dulles, at that moment, was not ready again to involve American 
land forces in another war on the continent of Asia. He thought victory could 
be achieved through increased military assistance to France, the Associated States ; 
and Thailand. Strongly supported by U.S. General O'Daniel, the French "Navarre ' 
Plan" was found attractive, and an expectation of French military victory, or at 
least of a good French show of strength, swept Washington in the fall of 1953. 

There was, however, considerable risk that China, now relieved from the war 
in Korea, would intervene in Indochina on Ho Chi Minh's side. The French 
wanted to get American guarantees against it. Basically they were now eager to 
find an honorable end to the war and hinted that they would welcome negotia- 
tions once the military situation permitted it. Dulles agreed to issue warnings to 
Peking, in order to deter further Chinese involvement. He threatened China with 
massive retaliation if it shifted its offensive to Indochina, but "the U.S. sought 
to convince the French that military victory was the only guarantee of diplomatic 
success" (Gravel ed., 1:96), and foreclosed negotiating in Indochina until after 
a Chinese decision to eliminate or cut down aid to the Vietminh. Dulles report- ; 
edly told Bidault that "negotiations with no other alternative usually end in 
capitulation" (Gravel ed., 1:96) . ' 

Quite suddenly, there was great concern about French political determination, i 
The Papers do not even hint that Washington officials had any perception of 
the causes of French hesitation. With the emergence in Saigon (in the fall of 
1953) of an anti-French right wing (under Ngo Dinh Nhu), and the related 
change in Bao Dai's attitude, the public urge for peace gained momentum, and 
the French Assembly's debate expressed it. Although the French government dis- 

"Supporting" the French in Indonesia? 171 

missed as "pure propaganda" Ho Chi Minh's interview (November 29, 1953) and 
reassured the United States, the peace-feelers had a great effect on opinion. 

The antiwar feehng and movement led by the influential weekly L'Express de- 
veloped so fast that in January 1954 Laniel could no longer ignore it. When 
the Big Four Conference opened in Berlin, French Foreign Minister Georges 
Bidault had to put forward the idea of an international conference on Indo- 
china. He could pressure Dulles by threatening to scuttle the project for the 
European Defense Community (EDC), which then was a top U.S. priority. On 
January 18, 1954, the Big Four decided that a conference on Indochina would 
start in Geneva on April 26, with the participation of People's China. In Washing- 
ton, there was the beginning of near panic. 


Indochina was seen as an essential area mostly by the West Coast interests 
and the Defense industries tied to them, for whom the containment of China 
had high priority. They also feared that the loss of Southeast Asia would force 
Japan into an accommodation with the Communist bloc. These circles simply 
could not accept the prospect of a settlement which would either leave France 
in control (alone or in alliance with New York interests) or (worse) give the 
Communists a part of the area. The widening audience of the "Peace faction" in 
Paris was a source of considerable anxiety and perplexity. 

As early as February 1952, the National Security Council had suggested that 
the United States might be forced to take military action in Indochina. With the 
deterioration of the French military situation there in December 1953, serious 
attention was given for the first time to the manner and size of a possible U.S. 
intervention, which could at least deter (or prevent) the French from resorting to 

The Defense Department, however, was not of a single mind on this question. 
It is worth recording that Vice-Admiral A. C. Davis, Director of the Office of 
Foreign Military Affairs (Office of the Secretary of Defense) then stressed that 
"involvement of U.S. forces in the Indochina war should be avoided at all 
practical costs," because it is impossible to engage "Naval and Air units only." 
"There is no cheap way to fight a war, once committed," he said (Gravel ed., 

Evident disparity between how East and West Coast interests appreciated 
strategic evaluation of Indochina, and incapacity to reach a decision on the 
forces required to defend the area, led to an important NSC meeting on Jan- 
uary 8, 1954. It appeared that the State Department favored intervention, prob- 
ably as insurance against French "dissidence" (the Berlin conference was to 
open next week). The Defense Department opposed it, arguing that France could 
win only with U.S. aid and indigenous support. In order to agree, both sides de- 
cided to set up a special working group, under General Erskine. 

An important NSC paper (5405, January 16, 1954) discussed the possibility 
of negotiations (Dulles was then talking about that at Berlin), and the author 
of the Papers' summary analyzed it as follows : 

The NSC decided the U.S. should employ every feasible means to influence 
the French Government against concluding the struggle on terms "incon- 
sistent" with the basic U.S. objectives. The French should be told that: (1) 
in the absence of a marked improvement in the military situation, there was 

172 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

no basis for negotiations on acceptable terms; (2) that the U.S. would 
"flatly oppose any idea" of a cease-fire as a preliminary to negotiations, 
because such a cease-fire would result in a irretrievable deterioration of the 
Franco-Vietnamese military position in Indochina; (3) a nominally non- 
comnninist coalition regime would eventually turn the country over to Ho 
Chi Minh with no opportunity for the replacement of the French by the j 
United States or the United Kingdom [Emphasis added]. ^ ... If the 
French actually enter into negotiations with the communists, insist that the 
United States be consulted and seek to influence the course of the negotia- 
tions.'^ ■ 

General Erskine's two reports, which were discussed on February 6 and March 
17, were extremely negative and tough about the possible solutions of the con- 
flict, successively rejecting (a) imposition of a ceasefire; (b) establishment of j 
a coalition government; (c) self-determination through free elections ("such a \ 
course would in any case lead to the loss of the Associated States to Communist I 
control"). A partition of the country would be bad and the maintenance of the 
status quo was now difficult. In brief, Erskine's report concluded that from the I 
point of view of the U.S. strategic position in Asia, no solution to the Indochina | 
problem short of victory was acceptable. It recommended that prior to the start \ 
of the Geneva conference the United States should inform Britain and France | 
that it was only interested in victory in Indochina and would not associate itself i 
with any settlement which fell short of that objective. Acknowledging that "the ; 
French desire for peace in Indochina almost at any cost represents our greatest j 
vulnerability in the Geneva talks" (Gravel ed., 1:452), it further recommended j 
that in the event of an unsatisfactory outcome at Geneva, the United States 
should pursue ways of continuing the struggle in concert with the Associated 
States, the UK and other allies. The NSC had therefore to determine the extent 
of American willingness to commit forces to the region with or without French j 
cooperation. With the siege of Dien Bien Phu just beginning, and the Geneva i 
Conference six weeks away, Erskine nonetheless suggested that the United States 
observe (and influence) developments at the conference before deciding on ac- 
tive involvement (Gravel ed., 1:91 ). 

However, the problem now was to know whether the United States could even- 
tually accept the "loss" of "French" Indochina (while doing everything to prevent 
further deterioration), or undertake new direct action to save Indochina before 
some unacceptable settlement should emerge at Geneva. * 

The military chiefs were against direct U.S. intervention, but would agree to 
help the French to hold and even to "rectify" French deficiencies. In this respect, 
the Pentagon Papers say that no record of Operation Vulture (U.S. bombing i 
against Communist forces besieging Dien Bien Phu) has been found in the files . 
(Gravel ed., 1:97). It seems, nevertheless, that Admiral Radford (Chairman of 
the JCS) and Vice-President Nixon, then a clever spokesman for West Coast i 
interests, favored strong, swift and decisive action on the side of the French. \ 

President Eisenhower was opposed to any direct intervention, and probably . 
Dulles, too. The Pentagon Papers, however, do not throw light on their motiva- \ 
tions, which are left to the reader's guess. They record almost incidentally i 
(Gravel ed., 1:134) that "the partition alternative, specifically at the 16th parallel, 
[was] intimated to American officials as early as March 4 by a member of the i 
Soviet Embassy in London, apparently out of awareness of Franco-American 
objections to a coalition arrangement for Vietnam." This certainly had given 
Dulles a clue that the other side might accept a territorial compromise. Was this 

"Supporting" the French in Indonesia? 173 

not an opportunity for the United States to take over the poHtical leadership of 
the truncated Vietnam State? Dulles was then to develop a subtle maneuver that 
the Papers, without mentioning it, document well. 

Actually Dulles was to hide the maneuver behind various smokescreens, and 
first of all strong militant words basically aimed at giving the US an ultimately 
controlling position in the negotiation, while preventing, in the interval, negotia- 
tions by others and primarily by France. 

Dulles' maneuver developed fast. In a memorable speech on March 29, he 
stressed the alarming situation in Indochina, alleged and dramatized the Chinese 
threat, delivered a strong warning to Peking, and called for the "united action" 
of the West. This was to reassure and please right-wing (Southern and Western) 
opinion inside the United States. It also: (a) gave apparent support to the French, 
who would be tempted at least to delay negotiation and wait for improvement of 
their military situation; and (b) extended East Coast leverage (through a NATO- 
like structure), probably bring genuine "nationalists" into power in Saigon, and 
offer a scapegoat (the British) if something failed. Anyway, at least for a while, 
"united action" would be used as an alternative both to negotiation and to U.S. 
unilateral intervention. 

On April 3, President Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles got the approval of 
congressional leaders on the course they had chosen. The United States would 
not undertake unilateral intervention. Its participation in the war would be con- 
tingent upon the formation of a coalition (with the UK and Asian powers), a 
French declaration giving full independence to the Associated States, and con- 
gressional approval (which was dependent upon the first two conditions). The 
French would continue the war, with allied support, until victory, except if negoti- 
ations were just a face-saving device to cover a Communist withdrawal. 

As everyone knows, the British government's answer was negative. They would 
do nothing before the Geneva Conference, they said, but would decide later, 
according to the results. Meanwhile they would give full diplomatic support to 
the French, and in their view, the best outcome would be a negotiated partition 
(In March the Soviet Embassy in London had also approached the British). 

France remained the key. Was she ready, with allied support, to pursue the war 
until victory? Washington intensified U.S. pressure on the French to deter them 
from negotiation. On April 17, Nixon went so far as to advocate sending the 
boys to Indochina (Gravel ed., 1: 104). At the end of April, a dramatic show (of 
strength) to force the British to accept a commitment ended in complete failure. 
The United States was forced to accept the fact that at least the negotiations 
would start at Geneva. 

However, Washington was sure that Communist terms would be "unaccept- 
able" and defined its position in "maximalist" terms, equivalent to victory, to be 
imposed upon the others. A National Security Council meeting, on May 8, set 
forth the guidelines of U.S. policy on negotiations for the U.S. delegation at 
Geneva.'* The United States would stand for nothing less than territorial integrity, 
political independence, security against aggression and subversion, stability of 
government, economic expansion, etc., but would not associate with a settlement, 
nor guarantee it, retaining the possibility of retaking the initiative. Moreover, in 
this meeting 

the NSC . . . decided that the French had to be pressured into adopting a 
strong posture in the face of probable Communist intransigence. The Presi- 
dent was urged to inform Paris that French acquiescence in a Communist 
takeover of Indochina would bear not only on France's future position in 

174 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

the Far East, but also on its status as one of the Big Three; that abandon- 
ment of Indochina would grievously affect both France s position in North 
Africa and Franco-U.S. relations in that region [emphasis ours]; that U.S. 
aid to France would automatically cease upon Paris' conclusion of a un- 
satisfactory settlement; and, finally, that Communist domination of Indo- 
china would be of such serious strategic harm to U.S. interests as to produce 
•'consequences in Europe. . . ." In addition, the NSC recommended that the 
United States determine immediately whether the Associated States should be 
approached with a view to continuing the anti-Viet Minh struggle in some 
other form, including unilateral American involvement "if necessary." The 
NSC clearly viewed the Indochina situation with extreme anxiety, and its 
action program amounted to unprecedented proposals to threaten France 
with the serious repercussions of a sell-out in Southeast Asia.^ 

But the American leverage was not good. The Administration had carefully 
made direct involvement conditional on a range of French concessions and prom- 
ises, especially concerning Vietnamese independence and separate peace. They 
said it was just to provide an alternative, once the French had conceded that 
negotiation was a wasteful exercise. Dulles still thought the French would like to 
win the war (rather than negotiate), and hoped that through "united action" and 
U.S. "aid," Washington would quietly take over leadership of the struggle, eventu- 
ally imposing "true nationalists" (in fact, obvious CIA agents or puppets) in the 
Saigon government. 

The French, however, had different thoughts. Premier Laniel reaffirmed in 
Paris that his government would not directly or indirectly turn Indochina over to 
the Communists. But the French desired only local assistance, not an "interna- 
tionalization of the war" (in which they would lose control). At bottom, they did 
not wish American intervention. For them it was just an option, to be kept open 
until every effort to reach serious agreement at Geneva had been exhausted. 
Moreover the American conditions were unacceptable to them: they could not 
accept having the Associated States secede from France (to become Washington's 
satellites), while France would still continue to fight for their defense, as the 
Pentagon's infantry. 

Just here a great turningpoint was reached, and strangely enough the Papers do 
not throw light on, and even seem to avoid mentioning two often-unnoticed but 
capital events which suddenly changed the whole American approach. 

On the one hand, the "Saigon Military Mission" (SMM) — a cover for the 
CIA — with its chief. Colonel Ed Lansdale, USAF, arrived in Saigon on June 1 
(Gravel ed., 1:574), and met General Donovan (a CIA boss) there on June 3. 
Awkwardly the Papers do not publish the decisions reached at the 200th NSC 
meeting on June 3. On the other hand, French sources had revealed that at this 
very moment, Bao Dai, under U.S. pressure, called on Ngo Dinh Diem to become 
Vietnam's Prime Minister. Dulles had got his trump cards and aces. The United 
States could quietly drop "united action." 

Actually, Washington security planners then began to focus on the future pos- 
sibilities of collective defense in Southeast Asia, a system to be set up after a 
Geneva settlement. The consequence was a sudden determination to help to bring 
about the best possible settlement terms. 

After the fall of the Laniel-Bidault government in Paris, Dulles decided on 
June 15 that "united action was no longer tenable." The new French Cabinet, 
with Pierre Mendes France as Premier, had a quite different approach and Wash- 
ington feared that the French would yield in Geneva or even accept some "sell- 

"Supporting" the French in Indonesia? 175 

out." "Paris, it was felt, could no longer be counted on as an active participant 
in regional security" (Gravel ed., 1:131). 

With the softening of Chinese attitudes, the possibility of a compromise no 
longer looked grim,^*^ and at this point "the United States began to move in the 
direction of becoming an influential actor at the negotiations. . . . Washington 
believed that inasmuch as a settlement was certain to come about, and even 
though there was near-equal certainty it could not support the final terms, basic 
American and Western interests in Southeast Asia might still be preserved if 
France could be persuaded to toughen its stand" (Gravel ed., 1: 141). 

The British then still believed in the possibility of a "neutral belt" giving the 
Communists the security they needed; they still believed in the possibility of 
dividing Vietnam in this framework, and accepted the view that once a settlement 
had been achieved, a system for guaranteeing the security of the "neutral states" 
thus formed would be required. 

A partition settlement would certainly offer many dangerous aspects, but the 
question then was turning out to be "how much territory the Communists could 
be granted without compromising non-Communist Indochina's security, what 
measures were needed to guarantee that security, and what other military and 
political principles were vital to any settlement which the French would also be 
willing to adopt in the negotiations" (Gravel ed., 1: 142). 

It has to be understood (and this aspect is totally absent from the Pentagon 
Papers) that once Diem had come to power in Saigon (June 17), the United 
States could accept partition. The United States needed British support and par- 
ticipation in the Collective Defense arrangement. "American acceptance of parti- 
tion as a workable arrangement put Washington and London on even terms" 
(Gravel ed., 1:143). Eisenhower and Churchill could agree, on June 29, on the 
"Seven Points": the United States "would not oppose a settlement which con- 
formed to the Seven Points" and would even "respect" it. On July 13, Mendes 
France, in order to bring the Americans to support him at Geneva in the final 
bargaining, "formally subscribed to the Seven Points and . . . agreed to Ameri- 
can plans for dealing with the aftermath of the Conference" (Gravel ed., 1:152). 

The Chinese, however, made plain that a settlement was contingent upon West- 
ern acceptance of their neutralization plans: foreign military bases had to be 
barred from Indochina, and the Associated States denied admission to any mili- 
tary bloc. Mendes France accepted that too. 

France, on July 20, concluded agreements with the DRV on the basis of "inde- 
pendence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam" and the designa- 
tion of a "provisional military demarcation line" between the French Union's 
forces and the Vietnamese People's Army (a de facto partition) tied to a date for 
all-Vietnam elections. The United States only took note, but pledged it would 
"refrain from the threat or the use of force to disturb the accords." 

Washington had to concede that the Geneva Accords represented a reasonable 
outcome, given the military conditions prevailing in Indochina. Bedell-Smith said 
he was "convinced that the results are the best that we could possibly have ob- 
tained in the circumstances" (Gravel ed., 1:176). 

However, "the view that Geneva had come out better than could have been 
expected was the one offered publicly" (Gravel ed., 1:176). Although the major 
provisions of the settlement conformed surprisingly well with the Seven Points, 
the fact that another territory had been formally ceded to the Communists, that 
American military assistance to Indochina (at a cost of $2.6 billion) had neither 
assured the French a military or diplomatic success nor prevented the "loss" of 
North Vietnam weighed heavily on the Administration. In its meetings of August 

176 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

8-12, 1954, the National Security Council evaluated the Geneva Accords as "a 
major defeat for United States diplomacy and a potential disaster for United 
States security interests ... a major forward stride of communism which may 
lead to the loss of Southeast Asia." A new objective was set: at all costs "to pre- 
vent a Communist victory through all-Vietnam elections" (Gravel ed., 1:177). 

Having failed in their attempt to dominate (with the French) the whole of 
Vietnam through a "national" government of the Quisling or Wang Ching-wei 
type, the United States was then retreating on a "separatist" (secessionist) solu- 
tion, the model of which could be found in a Japanese-type Manchukuo, or in 
the German-type Slovakia, with a puppet government manipulated by "advisers." 

Washington was eager to strengthen "free" Vietnam, needed French coopera- 
tion and support to implement its "aid" programs, but demanded that France 
treat South Vietnam as an independent sovereign nation, in the hope of winning 
nationalist support away from the Vietminh. Economic and financial aid would 
be given directly to Diem, as a way to accelerate the "dissociation of France from 
economic levers of command" and boost Vietnamese independence. French dom- 
ination in this area, the Papers admit, "also inhibited American economic inter- 
ests" (Gravel ed., 1:214; emphasis ours). Militarily, the United States would 
build up "indigenous military forces necessary for internal security . . . working 
through the French only insofar as necessary." In other words, the United States 
asked the French to stay in Vietnam militarily, but to get out of Vietnamese 
economic and political life. As the Papers say, "this was probably asking too 
much." 11 

Decisions reached in Washington in August 1954 probably reflected the out- 
come of the behind-the-scenes inner struggle which, within what could be called 
the "Central Committee of the American Mammonist (or Capitalist) Party," 
opposed the Eastern Economic Establishment and the Western Military-Industrial 
Complex. The Dulles-Robertson- Young team offered two courses: (a) to 
strengthen the Diem government by political and economic means (this suited the 
East Coast interests; and (b) to bolster this government by strengthening the 
army that supports it (good news for the West Coast, the Pentagon and the 
Military-Industrial Complex). 

Political considerations were to bring U.S. policy to shift to a decision to re- 
place France in Vietnam as rapidly as possible. With the arrival of the Sainteny 
Mission in Hanoi in early October 1954, the fear swept official Washington that 
France and the DRV might make a deal and agree to keep the United States on 
the outside. This was now too great a risk to be accepted. 

Resolutions of differences within the Eisenhower Administration on military 
issues (the training of the Vietnamese army) opened the way for U.S. assumption 
of responsibilities in Vietnam. To back Diem and oust the French became the 
basic motivations as early as October 1954. Washington first cut down by two- 
thirds funds for supporting the French military presence in Indochina. In Novem- 
ber, the outbreak of the Algerian uprising gave timely help to the American plans 
in Vietnam. There was thereafter "strong sentiment in France for sending the 
French Expeditionary Corps to North Africa" (Gravel ed., 1:224). 

Tensions arose between the United States and France about Diem and the 
Saigon army. "To support or not to support Ngo Dinh Diem was the issue over 
which France and America split" (Gravel ed., 1:225). Washington stood firm. 
"No other suitable leader can be seen," Dulles said, and the Papers add: Diem 
"for all his failings and weaknesses was the only available leader for South Viet- 
nam." He actually was the only important American stooge in Vietnam and had 

"Supporting" the French in Indonesia? Ill 

strong U.S. economic interests and hopes behind him. Moreover he had already 
refused to be bound by the Geneva Accords in any way. 

Both countries, France and the United States, remained deadlocked until Febru- 
ary 11, 1955, when the terms (not the form) of the original Ely-Collins agree- 
ment were finally agreed upon during the "power vacuum" which, in Paris, fol- 
lowed Mendes France's resignation. Colonel Lansdale (CIA) got the direction of 
the key office in the military training mission in Saigon: "Operations." He first 
set out to help Diem liquidate the French-oriented sects, bringing in Northern 
Catholics instead. In May 1955, rather than break with the United States, French 
Premier Edgar Faure preferred to withdraw from Vietnam. 

Although remnants of the French forces remained until April 1956, "France 
was out of Vietnam to all intents and purposes by May 1955, ten months after 
Geneva." Diem had then established his rule with almost unwavering American 
support, and "the anti-Communist moralism of Dulles and Diem rejected any 
rapprochement with the North, ultimately assuring that the temporary military 
demarcation line would become a permanent division of Vietnam" (Gravel ed., 

With American advisers, the war then resumed against the people of South 
Vietnam, in flagrant violation of the clauses of the Geneva agreements. Diem had 
to terrorize the people in order not to lose the elections, if any had to be held. 
Intense and quite permanent mopping-up operations and repression were to lead, 
in 1956, to the Southern Insurrection. The course of the American War was set. 

Once decoded, and though the evidence they contain is quite scattered and 
rather difficult to gather and grasp by anyone not aware of what was at stake, 
the Pentagon Papers (Gravel edition) are helpful for clarification of the long 
process by which the United States became involved in the Vietnam war. As they 
show well, this involvement was not at all accidental, but the logical result of a 
determined and deliberate approach to Asia, with a precise view of what was 
meant by "the security of U.S. interests." Notwithstanding many gaps, the "thread 
of the story" is quite perceptible and the book reveals a lot about decisionmaking 
processes and approaches. 

For the French, this first volume certainly makes sad reading; but it is also 
illuminating, especially on the nature of Franco-American relations during the 
Cold War era. It shows how U.S. policy was basically calculated to ensure the 
success of right-wing forces in France and enlist France in the anti-Soviet alliance 
in Europe. Indochina then was low on the priority list. At all times, since 1947, 
French and American policies in Europe as in Indochina were closely related. 
This alliance between Paris and Washington was decidedly a "right-wing Front," 
a "conservative solidarity," and in this respect the Papers give evidence of a real 
conspiracy, born in 1946/47, to crush the liberation movement in Indochina, 
destroy the newly emerged "free" and proud Republic of Vietnam, and reimpose 
upon its people a puppet government. This kind of conspiracy at Nuremberg was 
called "crime against peace." 

It is not easy, even now, to determine which ideologies or interests kept France 
*i involved so long in a war in Indochina, nor is the tie-up between French and 
i American private or public interests which led Washington to subscribe to the 
French goals and pay for 70 percent (in 1953) of France's war costs better 
understood. But what the Papers document well is the way the U.S. Repubhcan 
[ Administration made this war its own war. Actually, when the French govern- 
I ment late in 1953 changed its mind and decided to put an end, through negotia- 

178 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

tion, to what had been a folly, Washington decided to enter the scene and, later, 
to get rid of the French, to take over the immoral undertaking and to go alone 
with what was to become pure aggression. 

Considering the sufferings imposed by the war upon the Vietnamese people, 
and the utter devastation of this old, serene and beautiful country, no French 
reader of this book will shut it without a deep and sad feeling: indeed, the 
colonial war was wrong, from the start, even if it developed later, through skillful 
maneuver, into an anti-Communist or Christian crusade; but probably worse has 
been, at the very moment when peace was near, the surrender of French re- 
sponsibilities to those people who, in Vietnam as well as in America, rejected 
peace and thought only of revenge and victory. 


1. In the letter of transmittal to Secretary of Defense Clark M. Clifford, Leslie Gelb 
wrote: "Because many of the documents in this period were lost or not kept (except for , 
the Geneva conference era) we had to rely more on outside resources" (Gravel ed., | 
I:xvi). : 

2. Mentioned in P. Devillers and J. Lacouture, End of a War: Indochina 1954, New j 
York, Praeger, 1969, p. 12. 

3. Joint Chiefs of Staff's memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, April 10, 1950 | 
(Gravel ed., 1:366). 5 

4. The rationale is "If you are 'true nationalists,' you can't be inclined toward com- 1 
munism, and if you are a leftist, you can't be a 'true nationalist.' " | 

5. The Pentagon Papers ignore persistently the fact that the French and Bao Dai had i 
agreed to set up a "provisional government of Vietnam" in May-June 1948. The posi- 
tion of Bao Dai, however, remained unsettled. 

6. Gravel ed., 1:87. A coalition government, Dulles thought, would be "the beginning > 
of disaster" (Gravel ed., 1 : 1 1 6 ) . ; 

7. The full text of NSC 5405 is published in the Papers as Document 20 (pp. 434- ; 
443). This sentence is "Point 29" (Gravel ed., 1:442). 

8. On the opening day of the conference at Geneva, Soviet officials had again ap- 
proached American delegates on the subject of partition, averring that the establishment 
of "a buffer state to China's south would be sufficient satisfaction of China's security 
needs" (Gravel ed., 1:134). The Department of Defense (on May 5) drew up a settle- 
ment plan that included provision for a territorial division. (This amounted to contain- 
ing the Communist forces above the 20th Parellel, while denying them sovereign access 
to the sea. The Hanoi-Haiphong area would be held by Bao Dai.) 

9. Gravel ed., 1:117. The Erskine report had suggested "political action" to ensure a i 
French agreement "with particular attention to possible pressure against the French ; 
position in North Africa, and in NATO" (Gravel ed., 1:454; emphasis ours). ; 

10. The Papers say "The Communist side was not so intransigent as to make agree- I 
ment impossible" (Gravel ed., 1: 139). \ 

11. Gravel ed., 1:214. "It would be militarily disastrous to demand the withdrawal of i 
French forces before the creation of a new national army," Dulles said. 


11. The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda 
and as History* 

by Noam Chomsky 

Though in no sense a history of American involvement in Indochina, the 
Pentagon study adds many important details to the historical record. As a general 
assessment, it seems to me fair to say that it corroborates, with direct documenta- 
tion, reasonable inferences that have been drawn in the most critical literature on 
the war.^ The Pentagon historians do, at times, try to distinguish the evidence 
that they present from the conclusions in the critical literature, but unsuccess- 
fully. As an example, consider the crucial question of the origins of the insurgency 
in South Vietnam (1954-1960). The director of the study, Leslie Gelb, has a 
long analytic summary in which he takes some pains to demonstrate that critics 
of the war have been in error in crucial respects, adding that "few Administra- 
tion critics have had access to the classified information upon which [these] 
judgments are based" (Gravel edition, 1:260).^ Gelb claims to provide a sub- 
stantial correction in his discussion of the May 1959 meeting of the Central 
Committee of the DRV Lao Dong Party (Fifteenth Plenum), which he regards 
(citing Communist sources) as "the point of departure for DRV intervention," 
when a decision was taken "actively to seek the overthrow of Diem" (Gravel ed., 
L264, 260). 

Turning to the critics, Gelb asserts that "Most attacks on U.S. policy have been 
based on the proposition that the DRV move on the South came with manifest 
reluctance, and after massive U.S. intervention in 1961." As his sole example to 
support this assertion, he cites the following passages from Kahin and Lewis: 

Contrary to U.S. policy assumptions, all available evidence shows that the 
revival of the civil war in the South in 1958 was undertaken by Southerners 
at their own — not Hanoi's — initiative. . . . Insurrectionary activity against 
the Saigon government began in the South under Southern leadership not as 
a consequence of any dictate from Hanoi, but contrary to Hanoi's injunc- 

Evidently, the quoted remarks are entirely irrelevant to the conclusion they are 
adduced to support. Neither in these remarks nor elsewhere do Kahin and Lewis 
state or imply that "the DRV move on the South came . . . after massive U.S. 
intervention in 1961." In fact, they cite a DRV statement of September 1960 as 
the first official "encouragement of militant tactics by the Southerners." In this 
public statement, according to Kahin and Lewis, the "Northern leadership [made] 
it clear that it sanctioned formation of a United Front and approved a program 
for the violent overthrow of the Diem government" (p. 115). As to the remarks 
Gelb quotes, he himself claims only that "Hanoi moved thereafter [i.e., after 

; Copyright © 1972 by Noam Chomsky 

i ■ *This IS part of a much longer study of the Pentagon Papers that will appear elsewhere. 

180 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol V ' 

1958] to capture the revolution" (Gravel ed., 1:265). He gives no evidence to ! 
refute the contention that insurrectionary activity against the Saigon regime 
through 1958 was independent of Hanoi. The evidence presented in the Pentagon i 
Papers in no way contradicts the passages he quotes, irrelevantly, from Kahin 
and Lewis. 

A few pages earlier, Gelb attributes to "Critics of U.S. policy in Vietnam" the i 
view that the DRV was "impelled to unleash the South Vietnamese" regroupees ! 
"only after it became clear, in late 1960 [sic], that the U.S. would commit massive ; 
resources to succor Diem in his internal war" (Gravel ed., 1:251). French \ 
analysts, Gelb claims, "have long been advancing such interpretations," and he j 
cites specifically Philippe Devillers, giving several long quotations from an article , 
that appeared in 1962.^ Apart from the fact that the U.S. commitment did not [ 
become clear in late 1960, Devillers says nothing of the sort, and the quotes Gelb \ 
cites are as irrelevant to the claim he is attempting to establish as those from j 
Kahin and Lewis. Neither Devillers nor Kahin and Lewis put forth the view that 1! 
Gelb is trying to refute, namely, that DRV moves to "capture the revolution" ii 
were a response to "massive U.S. intervention in 1961." They argue, rather, that ? 
"the insurrection is Southern rooted; it arose at Southern initiative in response to | 
Southern demands," led initially by "Southern Vietminh veterans who felt be- { 
trayed by the Geneva Conference and abandoned by Hanoi," which, initially re- ; 
luctant, "was then obliged to sanction the Southerners' actions or risk forfeiting | 
all chance of influence over the course of events in South Vietnam" (Kahin and | 
Lewis, p. 119). Their position can no doubt be challenged, and perhaps modified, ? 
on the basis of evidence that has since come to light, but the crucial point, in the j 
present connection, is that they never so much as hint at the position that Gelb \ 
attempts to refute in his effort to distinguish the conclusions of the critical 
literature from the material unearthed by the Pentagon historians. 

Gelb further notes that Diem was "entirely correct when he stated that his was 
a nation at war in early 1959" (Gravel ed., 1:265). Pursuing the matter further, 
we discover that "early 1959" happens to be March 1959,^ that is, two months 
prior to the meeting which Gelb takes to be "the point of departure for DRV 
intervention," when a decision was taken "actively to seek the overthrow of Diem" 
(Gravel ed., 1:264, 260). Thus Gelb's account not only does not contradict the 
quoted passages from Kahin and Lewis, but actually supports them, when relevant 
details are made explicit. ■ 

There remains the interesting question whether Hanoi did "capture the revolu- 
tion" after 1958, as Gelb evidently believes. The conclusion is not implausible on 
the basis of the little that is known, but the arguments that Gelb presents are 
hardly compelling, nor do they make the best case. Thus he argues that the rapid \\ 
growth of the NLF "is a further indication that the Hanoi-directed communist ( 
party apparatus had been engaged to the fullest in the initial organization and ; 
subsequent development of the NLF" (Gravel ed., 1:265). This is on a par with ' 
Douglas Pike's proof that the "master planner" of the NLF must have been Ho 
Chi Minh from the beginning, when it "sprang full-blown into existence and then | 
was fleshed out" exploiting "grievances . . . developed or manufactured almost 
as a necessary afterthought." The proof is that the NLF "projected a social con- [ 
struction program of such scope and ambition that of necessity it must have been ji 
created in Hanoi and imported." ^ In the face of such powerful argumentation, | 
one can only lapse into silence. 

Notice further that Devillers, in the article cited, in fact refers to the May 1959 
meeting — though Gelb does not mention this — stating that there was a debate 
over the issue of "effective support for Southern comrades," and that the tendency 

The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 181 
in favor of such support "had made itself felt in the field in the shape of the aid 
given at the beginning of 1960 to the maquis. . . ." Thus we see, still more 
clearly, that in this instance the Pentagon Papers add little of substance to the 
earlier conclusions of the critical literature, which Gelb misrepresents. Further- 
more, access to classified information was not needed to determine the basic facts. 
Rather, as has generally been the case, inattention to the public record has ob- 
scured the facts. Gelb's speculations (they are no more than this) as to the initial 
DRV intervention do, as is noted, contradict the conclusion of P. J. Honey that 
Hanoi was committed to the Moscow line of peaceful coexistence until late 1960 
(Gravel ed., 1:261), but Honey, who is described as "a British expert" or "the 
British authority on North Vietnam," is hardly one of those who direct "attacks 
on U.S. policy" in the sense Gelb intends. 

Though Gelb fails entirely to engage the critical literature, nevertheless the 
issue that he raises is of interest in itself. His interpretation of the Fifteenth Ple- 
num of May 1959 is somewhat different from Devillers', and though there is little 
relevant evidence in the Pentagon Papers, it is possible to pursue the issue using 
other sources. Gelb concludes that not later than spring 1959 — i.e., at the Fif- 
teenth Plenum — the DRV leaders made a clear decision "actively to seek the over- 
throw of Diem. Thereafter, the DRV pressed toward that goal by military force 
and by subversive aggression, both in Laos and in South Vietnam." The "principal 
strategic debate over this issue," he maintains, "took place between 1956 and 
1958." He concedes that during this period "some DRV leaders" perhaps "did 
attempt to hold back southern rebels on the grounds that 'conditions' were not 
ripe for an uprising" (Gravel ed., 1:260). In contrast, Devillers (in an article 
dated November 1961) held that the debate concerned possible "international 
complications likely to hinder the diplomacy of the Socialist camp," though some 
I "activist" elements succeeded, in the May 1959 meeting, in setting in motion a 
' program of aid for the Southern resistance. As to the hypothesis that the fighting 
j in South Vietnam is directed from Hanoi, Devillers asserts that it "is certainly a 
plausible one," and he cites an article in the Nhan Dan of Hanoi as one of several 
that "make it seem very likely," but he remains cautious, noting, in particular, 
that "to formulate [the hypothesis of DRV control] serves the purposes of Com- 
munist propaganda." His point is that both the United States and the Vietnamese 
Communists have a stake (for different reasons) in establishing that the NLF is 
under the control of the Communist Party of Vietnam. Therefore, evidence on 
, this matter from these sources must be treated critically. 

, We return to Gelb's discussion of alleged DRV resort to military force and 
subversive aggression, consequent to the May 1959 meeting. Let us consider first 
the other matter at issue, namely, the content and significance of the meeting. 
Available evidence is conflicting. Allan Goodman reports that "Vietcong who de- 
fected in 1961-1962, in part, gave as their reason for changing sides the reluc- 
tance of Hanoi to authorize anything beyond political action among the popula- 

, tion." ^ In fact, surveys of Vietcong prisoners and defectors just prior to the 

, American escalation of early 1965 found "most native South Vietnamese guer- 
rillas unaware of any North Vietnamese role in the war, except as a valued ally" 

1 (and revealed, as well, that few considered themselves to be Communists, and that 
"persuasion and indoctrination" appeared to be the major devices used by the 
Vietcong, rather than "the authoritarianism of traditional armies," ^ confirming 
the general conclusion of even such a hostile observer as Douglas Pike — see also 

, below, pp. 186, 187f.). 

j Jeffrey Race's very valuable study (see my note 6), on the other hand, supports 
Gelb's interpretation of the decision of the Fifteenth Plenum, while at the same 

182 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

time adding considerable depth of evidence to the (uncontested) view that the 
insurrection was well underway at that time and confirming the general interpre- 
tation of the origins of the insurgency given by Devillers and Kahin-Lewis. Race 
includes that "sometime around the middle of 1956 the Party made the decision 
to rebuild its apparatus in the South" (Race, p. 39). According to the highest 
ranking Party cadre Race was able to locate (captured in 1962), this was "a very 
dark period," given the realization that the Geneva Accords would not be im- 
plemented and that the Diem government, which had already severely damaged 
the underground apparatus (with ample use of terror) and was now turning to 
the countryside, might well consolidate its position. From 1956, the Party's politi- 
cal activity was carried out under the cover of the "Vietnamese People's Libera- 
tion Movement." Its programs appealed primarily, and with much success, to the 
demands for social justice that had been aroused by the Vietminh resistance, 
which (in Long An at least) had demonstrated to the peasantry that it was pos- 
sible to overthrow the power of the local elite. This, Race argues, was the primary 
significance of the resistance (Race, p. 40). In the late 1950s, "the revolutionary 
organization [was] being ground down while the revolutionary potential was in- 
creasing," the reason for this "anomaly" being "the Central Committee's decision 
that, except in limited circumstances, violence would not be used, even in self- 
defense, against the increasing repressiveness of the government" (Race, p. 104). 

This is the background of the May 1959 meeting in Hanoi. Though no record 
is available of its decisions, Race concludes from interviews and subsequent in- 
structions that it "set forth a new line for the revolution in the South," with the 
"political struggle line" replaced by a decision to combine political and armed 
struggle, taken after a "sharp conflict within the Central Committee" (Race, p. 
105). Although "the grievances on which the campaign was founded lay in the 
South, nevertheless the major strategic decisions were made by the Central Com- 
mittee in Hanoi." He reports that the few high-level cadres in government hands 
are insistent on this point, and concludes that although Kahin and Lewis and 
Devillers were correct in emphasizing "the effect of the increasing repressiveness 
of the Diem regime in generating pressure for armed action in the South," evi- 
dence that has come to light since they wrote indicates that they tended to 
exaggerate the independence of the southern movement (Race, pp. 107-108; 
recall, however, Devillers' qualified statements). 

The high-ranking captive mentioned earlier refers to the anger of southern 
Party members toward the Central Committee and their demand for armed action 
to preserve their existence in the face of the Diem repression of the former 
Vietminh (in explicit violation of the Geneva Agreements, it might be noted). 
The Fifteenth Plenum, he reports, decided to permit "the southern organization 
... to develop armed forces with the mission of supporting the political struggle 
line" (Race, pp. 1 10-1 11). Race believes that the reluctance of the Central Com- 
mittee to authorize even armed self-defense during these years derived from the 
concern for internal problems in the North, Soviet pressure, and "a natural con- 
flict between those making sacrifices at the front and those making policy deci- 
sions in the rear," who regarded the situation as not yet "ripe" (Race, p. 111). 
The southerners hesitated to undertake armed struggle for fear of violating the 
Party line, but after the May 1959 meeting they were no longer so constrained 
(Race, p. 113). From this point on, the threat of terror was "equalized," and 
violence was no longer a government monopoly. The Party quickly became the 
ruler in considerable areas of the province; by 1960, government forces in Long 
An province were collapsing without a shot being fired, undermined from within 
by Party propaganda, and the government apparatus quickly disappeared from 

The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 183 

the scene (Race, pp. 94-95, 116, 184ff.). The revolutionary potential had become 

Race describes the measures approved at the May 1959 meeting as "stopgap 
moves intended to catch up with events which had in fact overtaken the Party in 
the South." The September Party Congress cited by Kahin and Lewis (see above, 
p. 179) "definitively approved the new direction of Party poUcy in the South . . 
(Race, pp. 120-121). In late 1964 the situation had so deteriorated that a free 
strike zone was established in the northwestern part of the province and ten to 
fifteen thousand residents were moved by government decree (Race, pp. 135, 
168). "By early 1965 revolutionary forces had gained victory in virtually all the 
rural areas of Long An" (Race, p. 140). 

The analysts in the Pentagon study generally exhibit a commitment to the 
ideological underpinnings of U.S. policy and its specific aims. One refers to Marx, 
Mao and "French revolutionary romanticism" as "the most virulent, and vicious 
social theories of the era" (Gravel ed., L333). The reader may rest assured that 
none of the analysts would be so irresponsible and emotional as to use such terms 
as "virulent" or "vicious" in discussing, say, American military tactics in South 
Vietnam, or the general policies and assumptions that brought them into "opera- 
tional reality." For the most part, the bias of the analysts is not concealed — a 
virtue, not a defect, of the presentation. 

In case after case, the analysts reiterate U.S. government claims as if they are 
established fact. Consider again Gelb's assertion that after the May 1959 meeting, 
with its decision "actively to seek the overthrow of Diem," "the DRV pressed 
toward that goal by military force and by subversive aggression, both in Laos 
and in South Vietnam" (Gravel ed., 1:260). Expanding on this claim, he states 
(Gravel ed., 1:264) that "Within a month of the Fifteenth Plenum, the DRV 
began to commit its armed forces in Laos. . . ." No evidence is presented in the 

I summary or elsewhere to demonstrate that the DRV sent its armed forces into 

;Laos in June 1959, let alone that this was an outcome of the May meeting in 
Hanoi. The earliest claim that Viet Minh forces were involved in the fighting in 
Laos was a Royal Lao Government [RLG] report of July 29. No one, to my 
knowledge, holds that the Pathet Lao offensive of the summer of 1959 was a 
consequence of the meeting of May 1959 in Hanoi. As to the intervention of 

:DRV armed forces, careful studies disagree, the general attitude being one of 
considerable skepticism. Hugh Toye concludes that the allegations were false.^^ 

; Langer and Zasloff maintain that Laotian intelligence has evidence of North Viet- 
namese participation in the summer offensive. They also note, as Gelb does not, 
that this offensive followed the American-backed civil-military takeover in Vien- 

itiane, the attempt to disarm Pathet Lao battalions in May 1959, and the arrest of 
sixteen leaders of the political arm of the Pathet Lao (among them, the delegates 
who had just been elected to the National Assembly in a left-wing victory that set 
off the U.S. effort at large-scale subversion in Laos). 12 In the most recent study 

I to appear, Charles Stevenson takes the claim of North Vietnamese intervention 
to be unbsubstantiated, citing also Bernard Fall's skepticism. He concludes fur- 
ther that, contrary to U.S. government claims, "The initiation of the hostilities 
should be attributed to the [U.S.-backedl Phoui Sananikone government, as it 
;*vas in a Rand corporation study a year later," not to the Pathet Lao, let alone 
(:he DRV.^3 If there was North Vietnamese involvement in the summer offensive, 

I I was more likely a response to the events of May and the direct U.S. interven- 
hion^^ than a consequence of a Lao Dong Party decision to take over South 

Vietnam, as Gelb implies. 

184 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

Gelb's comments on this matter are particularly surprising in the light of the 
documentation available to him. A SNIE of September 18, 1959 {DOD, book 
10, 1244 ff.), concludes that "the initiation of Communist guerrilla warfare in 
Laos in mid-July was primarily a reaction to a series of actions by the Royal 
Lao Government which threatened drastically to weaken the Communist position 
in Laos," in particular, a reaction to the success of the new Laotian government, 
with increased U.S. backing, in blocking Communist efforts "to move by legal 
political competition toward its objective of gaining control of Laos." Intelligence 
estimated that the total number of guerrillas involved was about 1,500 to 2,000 
at most. It believed "it is almost certain some [North Vietnamese] are involved 
in the guerrilla activity, particularly in coordination, communication, and ad- 
visory roles," though "we have no conclusive evidence." Even this assessment 
must be taken with a grain of skepticism at least, given the long-standing preju- 
dice in the "intelligence community" with regard to "international communism" 
and its alleged responsibility for local initiatives everywhere in Indochina. 

In short, it will hardly do to describe the situation in Laos in the summer of 
1959 by stating, with not a word of additional background: "Within a month 
of the Fifteenth Plenum, the DRV began to commit its armed forces in Laos, 
and steadily escalated its aid to the Pathet Lao," pressing toward the goal of 
overthrowing Diem, established at the Fifteenth Plenum, by military force and 
subversive aggression. 

Continuing with his discussion of consequences of the May 1959 meeting in 
Hanoi, Gelb states: "moreover, by that time [December 1960], the Soviet Union 
had entered the fray, and was participating in airlift operations from North 
Vietnam direct to Pathet Lao-NVA units in Laos." The remark does not quite 
do justice to the actual situation. The Soviet airlift, which began in December 
1960, was in support of the pro-Western Souvanna Phouma and the neutralist 
Kong Le, whose government was under attack by right-wing troops backed by 
the CIA and U.S. military after a long period of well-documented American 
subversion. There is not a hint of this in Gelb's account, which conveys the im- 
pression of a Communist initiative to subvert Laotian independence, set in mo- 
tion by the May 1959 meeting of the Lao Dong Party Central Committee in 
Hanoi, and by the end of 1960 involving also the Soviet Union. Gelb claims 
that "Both Soviet and Chinese policy seems to have bent to [Hanoi's] ends," 
namely, reunification and "Vietnamese hegemony in Southeast Asia" (Gravel ed., 
1:265). This is an amazing construction to found on the flimsy evidence that he 
presents, and when the factual gaps are filled, as in the cases just noted, his 
proposal seems little more than a flight of fancy. In any event, his references 
to Laos are hardly more than a repetition of U.S. government propaganda that 
is generally discounted even by highly sympathetic historians. 

One further example, from a different part of the study, may suffice to illustrate 
the tendency to accept U.S. government claims uncritically unless they are con- 
clusively refuted by the evidence at hand, often with neglect of evidence that is 
not in serious dispute. Consider the explanation of why the Wilson-Kosygin peace 
initiative failed during the Tet truce of February 1967. The reason, according 
to the analyst, is that "the enormous DRV resupply effort force[d] the President 
to resume the bombing . . ." (Gravel ed., IV: 9, 139, 143). The careful reader 
will note that these alleged violations of the truce consisted only of "the massive 
North Vietnamese effort to move supplies into its southern panhandle" (Gravel 
ed., IV: 143), that is, movement of supplies within North Vietnam. The U.S. 
Command issued no reports of traffic moving south of Dong Hoi, about forty 
miles north of the 17th parallel, and had no way of knowing whether the sighted 

The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 185 

convoys were supplying the millions of people in the southern panhandle who 
had been living under merciless bombardment. 

Meanwhile, unremarked by the analyst, the United States was not only moving 
supplies westward toward California and across the Pacific, but was setting a 
one-day record on the first day of the truce for air-delivered cargo to units in 
the field. U.S. planes alone carried more than 7,000 tons of supplies and 17,000 
men during the first three days of the cease-fire — within South Vietnam. Re- 
porters described long files of trucks protected by tanks and helicopters hauling 
munitions to the outskirts of VC-controlled Zone C, though U.S. sources in 
Vietnam tried to conceal this fact in misleading dispatches. Immediately after 
the truce, Operation Junction City was launched against Zone C. According to 
AFP in Le Monde, the offensive had been prepared during the Tet truce. The 
U.S. press mentioned neither this matter, nor a Parliamentary debate in London 
inspired by the facts brought together by I. F. Stone. The Pentagon conceded 
Stone's charges, with this amazing comment: 'The point that Mr. Stone is 
missing is that we have air and naval supremacy and have no need of a truce of 
any kind to move supplies." Therefore, the onus falls entirely on North Vietnam 
for violating the truce by the unconscionable act of moving supplies within its 
own territory, thus forcing the President to resume bombing and dashing hopes 
for a negotiated settlement. Stone describes the whole incident as the govern- 
ment's most "successful Operation Brain Wash." No brains were washed more 
successfully than those of the Pentagon historian, who continued blithely to 
repeat government propaganda, oblivious to uncontested facts. 

However, though the analyst misrepresents the facts, he probably does ac- 
curately depict the perception of the facts in Washington. Chester Cooper, who 
was involved in the London negotiations at the time, reports that the President 
decided to renew the bombing despite the ongoing Wilson-Kosygin efforts: "The 
North Vietnamese troop movements over the past several days had apparently 
thrown Washington into panic." '^^ 

The incident is interesting not only as an illustration of the pro-government 
bias of the analyst, but also, once again, as an indication of the power of govern- 
ment propaganda to overwhelm the facts, given the general submissiveness of 
the mass media. It is easy to comprehend why statist ideologues complain so 
bitterly when the press begins to show some signs of intellectual independence. 

A more subtle, and rather pervasive bias is well illustrated by other comments 
of Gelb's in the analytic summary cited above. He notes that "no direct links 
have been established between Hanoi and perpetrators of rural violence" in the 
1956-1959 period (Gravel ed., 1:243). By the phrase "perpetrators of rural 
violence," he does not refer to President Diem and his associates, who organized 
massive expeditions in 1956 to peaceful Communist-controlled regions killing 
hundreds, perhaps thousands of peasants and destroying whole villages by ar- 
tillery bombardment, 18 nor to the "vengeful acts" of the South Vietnamese army 
in areas where the Vietminh had withdrawn after Geneva, "arbitrarily arresting, 
harassing, and torturing the population and even shooting the villagers." In 

, this regard, Gelb merely states that: "At least through 1957, Diem and his gov- 
ernment enjoyed marked success with fairly sophisticated pacification programs 

I in the countryside" (Gravel ed., 1:254), though he concedes that Diem in- 
stituted "oppressive measures" such as the so-called "political reeducation cen- 
ters" which "were in fact litde more than concentration camps for the potential 
foes of the government" and a "Communist Denunciation Campaign" which 
"thoroughly terrified the Vietnamese peasants" (Gravel ed., 1:253, 255). But he 

' concludes that the Diem regime "compared favorably with other Asian govern- 

186 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V \ 

ments of the same period in its respect for the person and property of citizens" I 
(Gravel ed., 1:253; in particular, for the property of the 2 percent of landowners 
who owned 45 percent of the land by 1960; Gravel ed., 1:254). And phrases such j 
as "perpetrators of rural violence" are, typically, restricted to the resistance in j 
South Vietnam. ■ 

We learn a little more about Diem's sophisticated pacification programs in the j 
countryside from the accompanying historical analysis. "In early 1955, ARVN \ 
units were sent to establish the GVN in the Camau Peninsula. . . . Poorly led, | 
ill-trained, and heavy-handed, the troops behaved towards the people very much j 
as the Viet Minh had led the farmers to expect" (Gravel ed., 1:306; the Camau | 
experience, the analyst adds, was "more typical of the ARVN than the Binh j 
Dinh affair," which "went off more smoothly" and, he claims, revealed popular 
hostility to the Vietminh). In interrogations of prisoners and defectors, the j 
analyst reports, most "spoke of terror, brutality and torture by GVN rural of- j 
ficials in carrying out the Communist Denunciation campaigns, and of the arrest i 
and slaying of thousands of old comrades from the 'resistance' " (Gravel ed., !| 
1:329). They also "spoke of making person-to-person persuasion to bring in \ 
new members for the movement, relying mainly on two appeals: nationalism | 
and social justice." The analyst concludes that many were not "dedicated com- |! 
munists in the doctrinaire sense," that "the Viet Minh were widely admired |j 
throughout the South as national heroes," and that "the GVN created by its li 
rural policy a climate of moral indignation which energized the peasants po- 1 
litically, turned them against the government, sustained the Viet Cong, and | 
permitted 'communists' to outlast severe GVN repressions and even to recruit \ 
during it" (Gravel ed., 1:329-330). Thus the unqualified anti- Vietminh cam- | 
paign of the GVN was "a tactical error of the first magnitude." 

Race reaches some rather similar conclusions in his far more detailed study. 
Until 1959, the government had a near monopoly on violence and by employing 
it, succeeded in demonstrating to the population that there was no alternative to 
violence. The Party maintained an official policy of nonviolence, with the excep- ; 
tion of the "extermination of traitors" policy undertaken in response to govern- 
ment terror in order to protect the existence of the Party. Although abstention 
from violence in the face of mounting government terror cost the Party dearly, ' 
the policy helped create the "revolutionary potential" that quickly turned the 
tide when the Central Committee rescinded its prohibition against armed struggle, 
and "the threat was equalized for both sides" (Race, pp. 184, 82-84, 113 ff.). ; 
Much the same was true in subsequent years: ". . . the government terrorized I 
far more than did the revolutionary movement — for example, by liquidations of 
former Vietminh by artillery and ground attacks on 'communist villages,' and i 
by roundups of 'communist sympathizers.' Yet it was just these tactics that led i 
to the constantly increasing strength of the revolutionary movement in Long 
An from 1960 to 1965" (Race, p. 197). 

The fundamental source of strength for the revolutionary movement was the 
appeal of its constructive programs, for example, the land program, which j 
"achieved a far broader distribution of land than did the government program, | 
and without the killing and terror which is associated in the minds of Western j 
readers with communist practices in land reform" (Race, p. 166; in this case |: 
too, "the principal violence was brought about not by the Party but by the 
government, in its attempts to reinstall the landlords"). The lowest economic 
strata benefited the most from the redistributive policies of the Party. Authority 
was decentralized and placed in the hands of local people, in contrast to the rule 
of the GVN, perceived (accurately) as "outside forces" by major segments of 

The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 187 

the local population (Race, p. 169 ff.); "what attracted people to the revolution- 
ary movement was that it represented a new society in which there would be 
an individual redistribution of values, including power and status as well as 
material possessions" (Race, p. 176). "The Party leadership . . . structured its 
forces so that they were inextricably bound into the social fabric of rural com- 
munities by ties of family, friendship, and common interest" (Race, p. 177). 
Thus forces were of local origin, locally supplied, and oriented toward local 

Returning to Gelb's quite typical form of expression, something is surely over- 
looked when the local cadres are portrayed simply as "perpetrators of rural 

The same summary and analysis (Gravel ed., 1:242-269) gives a remarkable 
interpretation of the post-Geneva period. In Gelb's view, the United States and 
the GVN, though not "fully cooperative," nevertheless "considered themselves 
constrained by the Accords" and did not "deliberately . . . breach the peace." 
"In contrast, the DRV proceeded to mobilize its total societal resources scarcely 
without pause from the day the peace was signed, as though to substantiate the 
declaration" of Pham Van Dong that "We shall achieve unity" (Gravel ed., 
1:250). Thus by mobilizing its total societal resources for social and economic 
reconstruction, the DRV clearly demonstrated its intent to upset the Accords, "in 
contrast" to the peace-loving GVN and United States, who were merely main- 
taining the status quo as established at Geneva. The DRV could have demon- 
strated its sincerity only by succumbing to the famine that appeared imminent in 
1954, refraining from programs of economic development, and permitting the 
United States to succeed in its efforts to undermine it.^^ 

Gelb believes that "it is possible ... to accept the view that through 1958 
the DRV still accorded priority to butter over guns, as part of its base develop- 
ment strategy," namely, the strategy of making the North "a large rear echelon 
of our army," "the revolutionary base for the whole country," in General Giap's 
words of January 1960 (Gravel ed., 1:263-264). But these priorities changed, 
Gelb believes, at the May 1959 meeting. Comparing Gelb's remarks with the 
facts that he cites, we might say, with somewhat greater precision, that the facts 
permit no interpretation other than the view he finds it possible to accept, namely, 
that the DRV through 1958 accorded priority to butter over guns (and, as he 
notes. Honey, as well as others, believe this to be the case through 1960). The 
claim that this concern for internal development through 1958 was nothing other 
than a part of the "base development strategy" is supported by no particle of 
evidence. It is, presumably, a logical possibility at least that the North Vietnamese 
leadership was interested in economic development for reasons other than "as 
part of its base development strategy," just as it is possible to imagine that the 
mobilization of "total societal resources" for internal development might have 
some explanation other than the intention to disrupt the Geneva agreements. But 
these alternative possibilities arise only on the assumption that the Vietminh 
leadership had some concern for the welfare of the Vietnamese people, and it 
would appear that this hypothesis is excluded by the canons of neutral scholar- 

In fact, Gelb's logic is rather like that of Dean Acheson when he declared 
in 1950 that recognition of Ho Chi Minh by China and the USSR "should re- 
move any illusion as to the nationalist character of Ho Chi Minh's aims and 
reveals Ho in his true colors as the mortal enemy of native independence in 
Vietnam" (Gravel ed., 1:51). To Acheson, apparently. Ho could prove his na- 

188 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

tionalist credentials only by capitulating to the French, who were defending 
liberty and national independence in Vietnam against the assault of the Viet- 

There is hardly a page of this summary and analysis section that is not mis- 
leading or inaccurate in some respect. To cite one final example, consider 
Gelb's remark that the refugees from the North after the Geneva settlement 
"provided the world the earliest convincing evidence of the undemocratic and 
oppressive nature of North Vietnam's regime . . . the refugees were the most 
convincing support for Diem's argument that free elections were impossible 
in the DRV" (Gravel ed., 1:248). One may argue that the DRV regime was 
undemocratic and oppressive and that elections conducted there would not be 
free, but it is patently absurd to point to the flight of the refugees as "convincing 
evidence" for these judgments. It would be rational to argue that the flight of 
the refugees indicated a fear that the regime would be undemocratic and op- 
pressive — to argue, in the analyst's phrase, that "The flight from North Vietnam 
reflected apprehension over the coming to power of the Viet Minh" (Gravel ed., 
1:291). Even this statement is misleading unless it is also noted that many of 
the predominantly Catholic refugees had been French collaborators and had even 
been mobilized in "an autonomous Vietnamese militia against the Vietminh." ^2 
Would Gelb argue that the flight of Loyalists to Canada provided the world with 
the earliest convincing evidence of the undemocratic and oppressive nature of 
George Washington's regime, and showed that free elections were impossible in 
the United States? 23 

The analytic summary of the post-Geneva period is unusual in the degree of 
misrepresentation, and contrasts unfavorably with other summaries, some of 
which are quite perceptive. As to the reasons for this, one can only speculate. 
The summary seeks to establish that the United States and GVN accepted the 
Geneva settlement more or less in good faith, and that blame for disrupting the 
peaceful status quo in Laos and South Vietnam lies primarily with the DRV 
(and its Russian ally, drawn in by Hanoi). From it, a reader who knows nothing 
of events in Indochina or of the critical literature (and who does not note the 
disparity between what is alleged to be true of the critical literature and what 
is actually quoted) might draw the conclusion that critics of the war are mis- 
guided in their "attacks on U.S. policy." Rather, they should be directing attacks 
on the DRV and its allies and should support the U.S. "reaction" to the aggression 
from the North. The U.S. government White Papers of 1961 and 1965 quite ex- 
plicitly attempted to demonstrate just this. 

Gelb's misrepresentation of the views of critics of the war also serves the 
ends of government propaganda in a slightly more subtle way. In the view of 
the critics, DRV intervention was a response to a situation that developed in the 
South. In Gelb's revision of their views, the contention is that the DRV inter- 
vention was a response to U.S. intervention. The critics focused attention on 
internal Vietnamese affairs. Gelb reformulates their argument, shifting the focus 
to an interaction between the United States and the DRV. Whatever may have 
been on his mind, the fact is that this move is typical of U.S. government propa- 
ganda, which seeks to show that the people of the South are victims of aggression 
from the North, with the United States coming to their defense. In this frame- 
work, the interaction between the United States and North Vietnam is the cen- 
tral element in the conflict, not the internal situation in South Vietnam. Within 
this framework, it is natural that the Pentagon Papers should contain a detailed 
study of the bombing of the North, while scarcely mentioning the far heavier and 
more destructive bombardment of South Vietnam which was initiated on a regular 

The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 189 

basis at about the same time. The government has half won the argument if 
critics accept its framework and then debate the timing of the U.S.-DRV inter- 
action, neglecting the Southern insurgency. It is interesting, therefore, that 
Gelb recasts the argument of the critics within the framework of government 
propaganda, ehminating the central concern with the Southern insurgency (though 
the reader can detect it from the quotes he cites) and placing U.S.-DRV inter- 
action in the foreground. Had the critics formulated their position in his terms, 
they would have tacitly conceded a significant part of the government's case. 

In this connection, four points might be mentioned. In the first place, as 
has already been shown, Gelb's account is shot through with misrepresentation. 
Secondly, it is striking that these distortions are so excessive in a discussion of 
the "origins of the insurgency in South Vietnam" (the chapter title), a question 
that might be regarded as crucial for determining one's attitude toward "massive 
U.S. intervention in 1961." Thirdly, Gelb claims only that information that 
appeared long after the events supports the interpretation he proposes. A 
rational person will evaluate an action in the light of evidence available to those 
who carried it out. A murderer is no less guilty if later evidence reveals that 
without his knowledge his victim was just about to commit some horrible crime. 
Finally, a critic of the American intervention who bases his criticism on the 
principle that the United States has no unique right to engage in forceful inter- 
vention in the internal affairs of others, or who simply believes that the U.S. 
executive should be bound by established law, would in no way be swayed from 
his condemnation of the U.S. intervention of 1961 even if it had been shown 
that the facts were as Gelb presents them, and were known to the U.S. executive 
at the time. Since this is clear from the critical literature that Gelb misrepresents, 
and from earlier discussion here, I will pursue this matter no further at this 

When the Pentagon study appeared there was loud protest that it was biased, 
misleading, a chorus of doves, etc. In a sense, this is correct. The analysts do in 
general seem to believe that the U.S. involvement in Vietnam may well have 
been a costly error. At the same time, they tend to accept uncritically the frame- 
work of official ideology, and rarely question government assertions. As the 
term has been used in American political discourse, they are doves, by and 

The work of the analysts must be understood as a distillation of the docu- 
mentary record that they were studying — they claim little more than this — and 
it is not therefore surprising that the implicit assumptions in this record are 
generally carried over into their work. With this limitation, the analyses are 
often excellent, intelligent, and highly illuminating. There is also some variety in 
the character of the analyses, difficult to discuss in view of the way the work 
was done and the anonymity of the presentation — one cannot know, for example, 
to what extent a particular section was the work of a single author. See Leslie 
Gelb's introductory "Letter of transmittal" for such information as there is. 
Furthermore, it must be kept in mind that this material was not prepared for 
publication. Undoubtedly it would have been revised and corrected, had it been 
intended for publication. Finally, footnotes are missing, and it is therefore im- 
possible to know what qualifications and further comments they might contain. 
The general bias of the analysts must, however, be appreciated by anyone who 
hopes to make serious use of this material. Disinterested scholarship on con- 
temporary affairs is something of an illusion, though it is not unusual for a 
commitment to the dominant ideology to be mistaken for "neutrality." Such 

190 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

naivete is apparent, not infrequently, in these analyses, though no more so than 
in most professional work.^"* Nevertheless, no reader will fail to learn a good 
deal about the U.S. involvement, and the attitudes and goals that underlie it, 
from a careful reading of the analyses and the documentation on which they are 

To cite a small example, it was not generally known that North Vietnamese 
villages were apparently bombed and strafed by T-28s on the eve of the Tonkin 
Gulf incident in August 1964, or that Thai pilots under direct U.S. command 
were shot down over the DRV two weeks later, though the Pathet Lao had 
provided evidence, generally disregarded in the West, that Thai pilots were 
taking part in the bombing of Laos.^**'' Given the timing, the facts are of some 

Consider a more important example: the escalation of the war in Laos in 
1964.27 It is claimed by U.S. officials that the American involvement in an ex- 
panding war in Laos in 1964 was in response to North Vietnamese aggression. 
Evidence to support this interpretation of events is slim,^^ but it is a fact that 
North Vietnamese soldiers entered Laos in February 1964. A report of the 
ICC "notes with interest" that the complaint of October 1964 from the Royal 
Lao Government is the first since the reconvening of the Commission in 1961 
reporting the capture of prisoners "alleged to have been North Vietnamese." A 
few days prior to the RLG complaint of October, the Pathet Lao had notified 
the ICC that U.S. aircraft had attacked Laotian territory and parachuted South 
Vietnamese soldiers into Laos. Apart from the fact that three soldiers were re- 
ported captured (two identified by name), the Pathet Lao charge is plausible, 
given that three years earlier (October 1961) President Kennedy had directed 
that the United States "initiate guerrilla ground action, including the use of 
U.S. advisers if necessary," in Southern Laos, seven months after he had in- 
structed that "we make every possible effort to launch guerrilla operations in 
Viet-Minh territory at the earliest possible time" (Gravel ed., 111:140). In May 
1961, an interdepartmental task force proposed extensive covert operations in 
Southern Laos, approved by the President (Gravel ed., 11:641-642; 111:140; 
see also my note 33). These operations were perhaps called off after the Geneva 
agreements of 1962, though the United States continued to supply guerrillas 
operating behind Pathet Lao lines and by mid- 1963 had reportedly begun to 
reintroduce CIA military advisers. In mid-November 1963 the CIA reported 
"first results just coming in" from a new series of cross-border operations into 
Laos (Gravel ed., 111:141). 

The ICC investigation confirmed the charge concerning the North Vietnamese 
soldiers, who entered Laos in February. The most convincing evidence of direct 
North Vietnamese involvement presented by Langer and ZaslofT is the testimony 
of a North Vietnamese defector, who had been a Pathet Lao battalion adviser.^^ 
He was given a month's leave in late January 1964 before undertaking a new (un- 
specified) assignment, but was suddenly notified on February 5 to report to 
Headquarters to accept an assignment, as he then learned, as a military adviser 
to the 408th Pathet Lao Battalion, which operated along the borders of China. 
He entered Laos sometime after February 18, from China. He reports having 
met an NVA battalion in North Vietnam near the Chinese border on February 
12, also headed for Laos. 

Why should the DRV have infiltrated advisers (and possibly troops) into 
Northern Laos in February 1964? The Pentagon Papers suggest a possible an- 
swer. In late 1963 plans were laid for a significant escalation of the war, and 
on February 1, the covert operations of the U.S.-GVN in Laos and North 

The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 191 

Vietnam were stepped up considerably and placed under direct American com- 
mand in Saigon. It is not unlikely that the plans were known to the North 
Vietnamese even before, given the generally porous character of the Saigon 
Administration and military. The purpose of this much expanded program of 
sabotage, kidnapping, commando raids and psychological warfare was to in- 
dicate to the DRV the depth of American commitment to the achievement of 
its war aims, specifically, surrender of the Pathet Lao and the NLF and the 
establishment of non-Communist governments in Laos and South Vietnam. Basing 
himself on material obtained prior to the publication of the Pentagon Papers, 
Anthony Austin states correctly that February 1, 1964, must "go down as one of 
the key dates of the American involvement." These covert operations, involving 
Vietnamese and foreign mercenaries (Chinese nationalists, European adven- 
turers, and possibly some Thais had "the primary motive ... to convey a 
message to Hanoi: 'We are changing the rules. You no longer have a sanctuary. 
The war is entering a new phase.' " The official purpose of these and related 
operations was to "warn and harass North Vietnam and to reduce enemy capa- 
bilities to utilize the Lao Panhandle for reinforcing the Viet Cong in South 
Vietnam and to cope with PL/VM pressures in Laos" (Gravel ed., 111:606). 

The covert program initiated on February 1 was "spawned" in May of 1963,^^ 
approved by the Joint Chiefs on September 9, and finally approved by the 
President on January 16. This "elaborate program of covert military operations 
against the state of North Vietnam" (Gravel ed., IK: 149) was a significant 
expansion of CIA efforts from 1961 to organize resistance and sabotage in North 
Vietnam. It was very different in scale and concept from earlier programs. "A 
firebreak had been crossed" (Gravel ed., 111:106). Quite possibly, the DRV 
received the "signal" that was so deliberately sent, and appreciated that "by 
early February 1964, the United States had committed itself to a policy of 
attempting to improve the situations in South Vietnam and Laos by subjecting 
North Vietnam to increasing levels of direct pressure" (Gravel ed., 111:152). 
The DRV perhaps concluded, reasonably enough, that Laos might be used as 
a base for an attack on North Vietnam — as indeed proved to be the case, shortly 
after, with the establishment of radar posts to guide American bombers near 
the Laos-DRV border.^^ North Vietnamese spokesmen have stated exactly this; 
for an example, see At War with Asia, p. 233, presented there without comment, 
though I would now be inclined to say that the remark is quite credible. They 
may then have decided to respond to the threat by protecting their Western 

All of this is interesting. The U.S. Executive has justified its clandestine 
operations in Laos on grounds of alleged North Vietnamese aggression. The 
case has never been strong. The information released in^the Pentagon study 
weakens it still further. 

It was immediately obvious that the Pentagon Papers presented decisive evi- 
dence of U.S.-initiated escalation in late 1963 and early 1964, leading directly 
to the expanded war in later years. Immediately upon the publication of the 
Pentagon Papers, the U.S. Mission in Vietnam released the text of a "captured 
North Vietnamese political directive" of December 1963 which, the Mission 
claims, "was the formal authorization for increasing North Viet-Nam's military 
presence in the South in 1964 and the years which followed." ^6 According to 
the Mission, the period after Diem's fall "seemed to Hanoi an opportune time to 
attempt the military conquest of the South," and this Resolution of the Central 
Committee of the Lao Dong Party, December 1963, presents "the decision which 
raised the civil war in South Viet-Nam, where both government and insurgents 

192 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

had been receiving external assistance, to the level of an international conflict" ! 

— a decision "made in Hanoi in December, 1963." The timing suggests that the ; 

release of the document was an effort to counter the evidence presented in the \ 

Pentagon Papers that the decision to escalate was made in Washington, but the 1 

document is (assuming its authenticity) no less interesting for that reason. ^"^ ; 

According to a report by Arthur Dommen, this document discloses that "The | 

Hanoi government had decided upon escalation of the war in South Vietnam | 

more than a year before the Johnson Administration committed combat troops I 
to the conflict." '^^ The document reveals, he claims, that shortly after Diem's 

overthrow Hanoi "decided ... on a step-up of the fighting in South Vietnam, | 

using their own army if necessary." This "appears to constitute the most au- j 

thoritative proof from the hand of Hanoi's leaders themselves that they were \ 

planning a big war in South Vietnam long before American forces began to take j 

an active part in the conflict," and had it been known to U.S. intelligence, it | 

could have been used by the Administration in 1964 to explain U.S. involvement i! 

as a response to North Vietnamese aggression. Dommen gives a few quotations I 

from the document, which, however, do not substantiate his assertions. 1; 

The document itself says nothing about a decision to use North Vietnamese | 
troops in the South or even about covert North Vietnamese operations in the jj 
South (analogous, say, to those that the CIA had been conducting for many j 
years in the North and that were sharply escalated on February 1, 1964). It || 
speaks of the "struggle of the South Vietnamese people against the United States j 
for national independence," which is at the same time a class struggle waged by j 
SVN workers and peasants against "feudalist landowners" and "pro-U.S. hour- I 
geois compradors." The document discusses the "successes of our Southern com- j 
patriots" and the "achievements of the South Vietnamese people" who now | 
"show themselves capable of beating the enemy in any situation." "The South 
Vietnamese people is one half of the heroic people" of Vietnam; they wage a 
revolutionary war, exploiting their political and moral strength to combat the > 
material and military superiority of the enemy. "The war waged by the people 
in South VN is a protracted one because we are a small people having to fight ; 
an imperialist ringleader which is the U.S.A." "The general guideline for our i 
people's revolutionary war in SVN is to conduct a protracted war, relying mainly ij 
on our own forces . . ."; ". . . the revolutionary people in SVN must promote 
a spirit of self-reliance." With a proper "emphasis on self-reliance and coordina- 
tion between political struggle and armed struggle . . . the SVN people ... . 
have achieved many great victories." But "the people in the South must not j 
only have a big and strong political force but a big and strong military force as ^ 
well." Therefore, concerted political and military efforts must be made in the ii 
mountainous, rural, and urban areas, "to motivate the people and ethnic-minority | 
groups ... to participate in our political struggle," to wage protracted war, to \ 
prepare for a General Uprising. "The South Vietnamese people's war" will sue- || 
ceed, and the Party "will lead the South Vietnamese Revolution to final victory." [ 

There is further discussion of the military and political tactics that "the South | 
Vietnamese people must adopt": annihilation tactics, helping the people, in- j 
creasing production, mobilizing military forces, protecting the material and cul- 
tural life of the people, heightening the sense of self-reliance, developing democ- \ 
racy and trusting the masses. "Revolution is a creative achievement of the \ 
masses"; "To win or to lose the war depends on many factors, but the basic one 
is man." "We must develop democracy to promote the subjective activism" of 
the people. "We should bring democracy into full play in political and armed 

The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 193 

struggles," and learn from the experiences of the people, eliminating "command- 
ism," "detachment from the masses," etc. 

The "SVN Revolutionary Armed Forces" must be constructed in accordance 
with the same "fundamental principles . . . applied for the building up the 
Vietnamese People's Army," with main force, local force, and militia guerrilla 
force "under the absolute leadership of the Party." "This army is not only a 
combat army, but also an action and production army," as is necessary in a 
struggle in which the political and social component is central. The "all-people, 
all-sided war" must be expanded "Even if the U.S. imperialists bring fifty to a 
hundred thousand additional troops to SVN." 

After thirty-nine pages in this vein, there is a two-page statement of "The 
Mission of North Vietnam." It begins as follows: 

To fulfill the above-mentioned mission, not only the Party and people in 
the South must make outstanding efforts but the Party and people in the 
North must make outstanding efforts as well. The role of the two "mien" 
[parts: North and South Vietnam] in the revolutionary undertaking of the 
country, as defined by the Party's third National Congress [September 1960], 
is unchanged, however it is time for the North to increase aid to the South, 
the North must bring into fuller play its role as the revolutionary base for 
the whole nation. 

"We should plan to aid the South to meet the requirements of the Revolution," 
to encourage our people in the North to work harder to "increase our economic 
and defensive strength in North Viet-Nam" and "to be ready to fulfill their 
obligation toward the southern Revolution under any form and in any circum- 
stance" (for example, say, if the outright U.S. invasion with 50 to 100,000 
troops takes place). The Party must "direct the revolution in the South"; "we 
must coordinate with concerned branches of service in the North in order to 
' better serve the revolution in the South." Following the anti-French war, "the 
; revolutionary struggle of our Southern compatriots has been going on for almost 
' the last ten years . . . the entire Party, the entire people from North to South 
must have full determination and make outstanding efforts to bring success to 
the revolution of our Southern compatriots and achieve peace and unification of 
the country, to win total victory, to build a peaceful, unified, independent, demo- 
cratic, prosperous and strong Viet-Nam." 
' In short, the document states that the people of North Vietnam must be 
i prepared to aid the popular revolutionary struggle being conducted, in a spirit 
; of self-reliance, by their Southern compatriots, the other half of the Vietnamese 
people. One need not turn to captured documents to read such exhortations. 
English-language publications from Hanoi commonly refer to "the great support 
of the Northern people for the struggle against U.S. aggression of the Southern 
kith and kin." The English text of the Third Congress (1960) Resolution pub- 
lished in Hanoi speaks of the two tasks of the Vietnamese Revolution: "to carry 
out the socialist revolution in the North" and "to liberate the South from the 
rule of the American imperialists and their henchmen, achieve national reunifica- 
tion and complete independence and freedom throughout the country." See also 
■ the public statement of General Giap in January 1960 cited above (p. 187). The 
' U.S. government White Paper of 1965 cites many other public statements of 
the same sort in its rather pathetic effort to demonstrate North Vietnamese ag- 
gression. In later years, there is frequent reference to the 1967 statement of Ho 

194 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

Chi Minh that "Viet Nam is one, the Vietnamese people are one, and no one i 

can encroach upon this sacred right of our people . . . [to] . . . independence, i 

sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Viet Nam." The captured docu- I 

ment released by the U.S. mission is also typical in its reference to the struggle i 

conducted by the South Vietnamese people in a spirit of self-reliance, with aid ] 

from the North, and with the goal of eventual reunification (cf. the Constitution i 

of the G VN ) ; and in its emphasis on the central importance of the political and , 

social struggle, which of course can only be conducted by indigenous forces, in \ 

the face of the military superiority of the United States and the Vietnamese armed ? 

forces it has established. It might be noted that the GVN constitution contains i 

one non-amendable Article, namely Article 1, which states that "Vietnam is an | 

independent, unified and territorially indivisible Republic," thus extending from j 

China to the Camau Peninsula. \ 

One must assume that the U.S. mission has done its best to support the con- j 

elusion it announced in the introduction to this document, a conclusion duly \ 

repeated by a sympathetic reporter, but not founded on the actual text. If so, | 

the case that the United States is unilaterally responsible for escalation of the ; 
war in 1964 seems to be demonstrated beyond serious question. Incidentally, if 

the war in the South was a "civil war" prior to this point, as the U.S. Mission 1 

states, then the direct engagement of U.S. military forces in combat from 1961, | 

and the CIA-Special Forces covert operations throughout Indochina, were surely \ 

in violation of the UN Charter, which grants an outside power no right to en- i 

gage in combat in a civil war. \ 

It has repeatedly been argued that the interpretation of the Indochina war is i 

biased against the United States because we have no access to internal DRV } 

documents. The statement is at best misleading. In fact, the U.S. government has i 

been selectively releasing "captured documents" for years on a significant scale ; 

in an effort to buttress its case, whereas internal U.S. documents, prior to the i 

publication of the Pentagon study, have been available only when leaked by the i 

U.S. Executive or in memoirs of its former members. The DRV and the NLF, ' 

of course, do not capture and selectively release U.S. government documents, j 

Therefore it would be more accurate to state that in the past, internal documents i 

have, for the most part, been selected by the U.S. Executive for public release, ' 
for its own purposes, from both U.S. and Vietnamese sources. Nevertheless, the 

record both prior to and with the publication of the Pentagon study would seem I 

to leave little doubt as to who is responsible for the successive stages of escala- j 
tion, quite apart from the respective rights of the U.S. government and contend- 
ing Vietnamese to carry out military and political actions in Vietnam. 

In the same connection, the Pentagon Papers add valuable documentation with 

regard to the commitment of North Vietnamese troops to South Vietnam. Over i 
the past few years there has been a running debate about this matter. The docu- 
mentary record previously available had indicated that regular North Vietnamese 

units were first identified in April 1965,^1 However, some pro-government spokes- : 

men have repeatedly claimed in public discussion that the U.S. government knew i 
that regular units of the North Vietnamese army (NVA, PAVN) were operating 
in the South even before the November election of 1964, but chose not to reveal 

this fact for domestic political reasons. (Why the Pentagon should have main- \ 
tained this deception through 1965 and 1966 remains a mystery, under this 
theory.) Joseph Alsop asserts (with no cited evidence) that "In 1965, when 
President Johnson intervened on the ground, Hanoi had two North Vietnamese 
divisions 'in country' " — that is, "on the order of 28,000 of Hanoi's troops." 
The date of U.S. ground intervention would be sometime between February 26, 

The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 195 

when the deployment of combat marines was approved (March 8 "was the first 
time that U.S. ground combat units had been committed to action"), and June 27, 
when U.S. forces took part in their first search-and-destroy operation into Viet 
Cong base areas (Gravel ed., 111:390, 417, 461). 

The published documents reveal exactly what Washington believed to be the 
case duing this period. The first reference to regular North Vietnamese units 
is in a CIA-DIA memorandum of April 21, 1965, which "reflected the acceptance 
into the enemy order of battle of one regiment of the 325th PAVN Division 
said to be located in [Northwestern] Kontum province." "^'^ Of the various signs 
of deterioration noted, this was the "most ominous," "a sobering harbinger of 
things to come." Westmoreland, on June 7, informed CINCPAC that "Sorhe 
PAVN forces have entered SVN" (Gravel ed., 111:438), and on June 13, re- 
ported that the PAVN 325th Division "may be deployed in Kontum, Pleiku and 
Phu Bon" (Gravel ed., IV: 607). An NVA regiment "reportedly" overran a 
district headquarters in Kontum Province on June 25 (Gravel ed., 11:473; the 
earliest such report in this particular record). 

Apparently, these reports were not too persuasive. On July 2, 1965, a memo- 
randum from McNaughton to General Goodpaster reports: "I am quite con- 
cerned about the increasing probability that there are regular PAVN forces either 
in the II Corps area [the area of the previous reports] or in Laos directly across 
, the border from II Corps" (Gravel ed., IV:291, 277). 

I On July 14, the Joint Chiefs included one regiment of the 325th PAVN 
i Division in their estimate of 48,500 "Viet Cong organized combat units" (Gravel 
i ed., IV: 295). An intelligence estimate (SNIE) of July 23 predicted that if the 
I United States increased its strength in SVN to 175,000 by November 1, then in 

order to offset this increase, the Communists would probably introduce a PAVN 
' force totaling 20,000 to 30,000 by the end of 1965 (Gravel ed., 111:484-485; 
I this, the analyst adds, "they were already in the process of doing"). The absence 
! of any considerable number of PAVN troops was reflected in the "Concept for 
i Vietnam" presented on August 27, which specified as the major military tasks: 

"To cause the DRV to cease its direction and support of the Viet Cong in- 
I surgency," while defeating the Viet Cong and deterring Communist China (Gravel 
I ed., IV:300). 

1 For comparison, note that on April 21, 1965, McNamara reported that 33,500 
; U.S. troops were already in-country, in addition to 2,000 Koreans who had been 
dispatched on January 8, 1965 (Gravel ed., 111:706, 139). He reported the 
unanimous recommendation of the Honolulu meeting of April 20 that U.S. 
; forces be raised to 82,000, supplemented with 7,250 Korean and Australian 
: troops. The analyst concludes that by the time of the Honolulu meeting, "we 
were inexorably committed to a military resolution of the insurgency" since 
; "The problem seemed no longer soluble by any other means" (Gravel ed., 
i 111:105) — the day before the "ominous" CIA-DIA report. By June, the United 
States decided "to pour U.S. troops into the country as fast as they could be 
deployed" (Gravel ed., 11:362). On July 1, the day before McNaughton ex- 
! pressed his concern over the possibility that PAVN forces might intervene, 
planned U.S. deployments were 85,000 troops (Gravel ed., 111:473). In mid-July, 
i when the JCS were estimating one PAVN regiment in South Vietnam, the 
; President approved the request that the U.S. troop level be raised to 175,000 in 
1965, with estimated U.S. killed-in-action of 500 per month, and another 100,000 
recommended for 1966 (Gravel ed., 111:396, 416; IV:297, 299). Recafl that 
h April 1965 was two months after the initiation of regular and intensive bombing 
of North and South Vietnam, eight months after the bombing of strategic targets 

196 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon- Papers/Vol. V 

in North Vietnam in "retaliation" for the Tonkin incident, and fourteen months 
after the escalation of military pressure against the North on February 1, 1964.^^ 
Recall also that the U.S. troop level reached 23,000 by the end of 1964 (Gravel 
ed., 11:160), and that the U.S. military had been directly engaged in combat 
operations for three years, at that point. 

The record is clear, then, that when the United States undertook the February 
escalation, it knew of no regular North Vietnamese units in South Vietnam, and 
that five months later, while implementing the plan to deploy 85,000 troops,^^ 
the Pentagon was still speculating about the possibility that there might be 
PAVN forces in or near South Vietnam. In the light of these facts, the discussion 
of whether the U.S. was defending South Vietnam from an "armed attack" from 
the North — the official U.S. government position — is ludicrous. 

The most striking feature of the historical record, as presented in the Pentagon 
study, is its remarkable continuity. I have noted several examples already, but 
perhaps the most significant has to do with the political premises of the four 
Administrations covered in the record. Never was there the slightest deviation 
from the principle that a non-Communist regime must be imposed, regardless of 
popular sentiment. True, the scope of the principle was narrowed when it was 
finally conceded, by about 1960, that North Vietnam was "lost." Apart from 
that, the principle was maintained without equivocation. Given this principle, 
the strength of the Vietnamese resistance, the military power available to the 
United States, and the lack of effective constraints, one can deduce, with almost 
mathematical precision, the strategy of annihilation that was gradually under- 

In May 1949, Acheson informed U.S. officials in Saigon and Paris that "no 
effort should be spared" to assure the success of the Bao Dai government (which, 
he added, would be recognized by the United States when circumstances permit), 
since there appeared to be "no other alternative to estab[lishment] Commie 
pattern Vietnam." He further urged that the Bao Dai government should be 
"truly representative even to extent including outstanding non-Commie leaders 
now supporting Ho." Of course Acheson was aware that Ho Chi Minh had 
"captured control of the nationalist movement," that he was "the strongest and 
perhaps the ablest figure in Indochina and that any suggested solution which 
excludes him is an expedient of uncertain outcome." ^"^ But to Acheson, Ho's 
popularity was of no greater moment than his nationalist credentials.^^ 

In May 1967, McNaughton and A4cNamara presented a memorandum that 
the analyst takes to imply a significant reorientation of policy, away from the 
early emphasis on military victory and toward a more limited and conciliatory 
posture. McNaughton suggested that the United States emphasize "that the sole 
U.S. objective in Vietnam has been and is to permit the people of South Vietnam 
to determine their own future." Accordingly, the Saigon government should be 
encouraged "to reach an accommodation with the non-Communist South Viet- 
namese who are under the VC banner; to accept them as members of an opposi- 
tion political party, and, if necessary, to accept their individual participation in 
the national government." This is precisely Acheson's proposal of eighteen 
years earlier (restricted, now, to South Vietnam). 

The final words of the Pentagon Papers analysis describe a new policy, under- 
taken after the Tet offensive of 1968 had shattered the old: "American forces 
would remain in South Vietnam to prevent defeat of the Government by Com- 
munist forces and to provide a shield behind which that Government could rally, 

The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 197 

become effective, and win the support of its people" (Gravel, ed., IV:604). 
Again, the same assumption: the United States must provide the military force 
to enable a non-Communist regime, despite its political weakness, corruption 
and injustice, somehow to manage to stabilize itself. Nowhere is there the slightest 
deviation from this fundamental commitment. The same policy remains in 
force today, despite tactical modifications.'''^ 

Small wonder, then, that many Vietnamese saw the United States as the 
inheritors of French colonialism. The analyst cites studies of peasant attitudes 
demonstrating "that for many, the struggle which began in 1945 against colonial- 
ism continued uninterrupted throughout Diem's regime: in 1954, the foes of 
nationalists were transformed from France and Bao Dai, to Diem and the U.S. 
. . . but the issues at stake never changed" (Gravel ed., 1:295; see also 1:252). 
Correspondingly, the Pentagon considered its problem to be to "deter the Viet 
Cong (formerly called Viet Minh)" (May 1959; DOD, book 10, 11860; also 
Gravel ed., 11:409). Diem himself, on occasion, seems to have taken a rather 
similar position. Speaking to the departing French troops on April 28, 1956, he 
pledged that "your forces, who have fought to defend honor and freedom, will 
find in us worthy successors." General Minh in January 1964 warned of the 
"colonial flavor to the whole pacification effort." The French, in their "worst and 
clumsiest days," never went into villages or districts as the Americans were about 
to do. Note the date. In response to Lodge's argument that most of the teams 
were Vietnamese, General Minh pointed out that "they are considered the same 
as Vietnamese who worked for the Japanese." The U.S. reaction was to reject 
\ Minh's proposals as "an unacceptable rearward step" and to extend the adviser 
■ system even below "sector and battalion level" (Gravel ed., 11:307-308). A year 
! and a half later, it was quite appropriate for William Bundy to wonder whether 
i people in the countryside, who already may be tempted to regard the Americans 
as the successors to the French, might not "flock to the VC banner" after the full- 
I scale U.S. invasion then being planned (Gravel ed., IV:61 1 ). 

The Thieu regime today has a power base remarkably like Diem's, perhaps 
even narrower.^-'^ By now, substantial segments of the urban intelligentsia — "the 
ij people who count," as Lodge put it (Gravel ed., n:738) — regard U.S. interven- 
I tion as blatant imperialism. Of course, one may argue that the popular mood 
\ counts for less than in former years, now that the United States has succeeded, 
; partially at least, in "grinding the enemy down by sheer weight and mass" (Robert 
I Komer in Graveled., IV: 420). 


1. Cf. F. Schurmann, P. D. Scott and R. Zelnick, T/ze Politics of Escalation in Viet- 
1 nam, Fawcett, 1966; E. S. Herman and R. B. Du BofF, America's Vietnam Policy, 

Public Affairs Press, 1966; and many later works. 

2. The "Letter of Transmittal" identifies Gelb as the author of the summary and 
analysis sections (Gravel ed., I:xvi). References, unless otherwise indicated, are to the 
Gravel Edition of the Pentagon Papers, Beacon, 1971. References to the Government 

j offset edition of the Pentagon Papers {United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, 
Government Printing Office, 1 97 1 ) are identified as DOD. 

3. George McT. Kahin and John Lewis, The United States in Vietnam, Dial, 1967, 
i pp. 119-120. I give here the original, which is slightly different, but in no material way, 
I from the quotation as Gelb cites it. 


198 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

4. Philippe Devillers, "The struggle for unification of Vietnam," The China Quarterly, 
January-March 1962, reprinted in M. E. Gettleman, ed., Vietnam: History, Documents, 
and Opinions, Fawcett, 1965. 

5. Devillers, op. cit., citing an interview with Diem in Figaro. The analyst later cites 
an article by George Carver of the CIA who states that "By the end of 1958 the 
participants in this incipient insurgency . . . constituted a serious threat to South Viet 
Nam's political stability" (Gravel ed., 1:335; emphasis his). 

6. Cited by the analyst. Gravel ed., 1:345-346. The quotations are from Pike's Viet 
Cong, MIT, 1966, p. 76, and give a fair indication of the general level of his analysis, 
though the book is useful for the documentation it contains. For a serious discussion 
of the origins of the NLF see Jeffrey Race, War Comes to Long An, Univ. of Cali- 
fornia, 1972. 

7. Honey is an extreme anti-Communist whose fanaticism on the subject leads him 
to outlandish statements. See my American Power and the New Mandarins, Pantheon, 
1969, p. 290, for examples. While Honey is described merely as an authority or an 
expert, Burchett is identified as "the Communist journalist Wilfred Burchette" (sic; 
Gravel ed., IV: 207, 151). 

8. "Diplomatic and strategic outcomes of the conflict," in Walter Isard, ed., Viet- 
nam: Issues and Alternatives, Schenkman Publishing Company, Cambridge, 1969. 

9. New York Times, June 7, 1965; cited in American Power and the New Mandarins, 
chapter 3, note 49. 

10. Laos: Buffer State or Battleground, Oxford, 1968, pp. 127 IT., 139, 149. A UN 
Commission was unable to substantiate charges by the Lao government that there was 
a North Vietnamese invasion. Arthur Dommen maintains that "the fact that the sub- 
committee did not report that there were no North Vietnamese troops in Laos is signifi- 
cant" (Conflict in Laos, revised edition, Praeger, 1971, p. 124), but is unwilling to go 
beyond that. 

11. North Vietnam and the Pathet Lao, Harvard, 1970, pp. 68-69. This book is an 
attempt to make the case for North Vietnamese control of the Pathet Lao. I have 
discussed it, in its earlier incarnation as a RAND report, in my At War with Asia, 
Pantheon, 1970, chapter 4, along with other RAND reports by these authors. 

12. For background, in addition to the references cited earlier, see J. Mirsky and 
S. E. Stonefield, "The United States in Laos, 1945-1962," in E. Friedman and 
M. Selden, eds., America's Asia, Pantheon, 1970. 

13. Charles A. Stevenson, The End of Nowhere: American Policy Toward Laos 
since 1954, Beacon, 1972, p. 73. 

14. Barely noted in the Pentagon Papers. DOD book 10 contains some relevant docu- 
ments. For example, an intelligence analysis of December 1958 indicates that the 
NLHS (the political arm of the Pathet Lao) "appears to be making strong gains in 
almost every sector of Laotian society" after the electoral victory {DOD 1172), and 
an NSC report a few weeks later mentions the introduction of U.S. military officers 
"in civilian clothing" {DOD 1165; January 1959; both facts commonly noted else- 
where). In an appendix, Stevenson reviews the Pentagon Papers documentation with 
reference to Laos. See also Jonathan Mirsky, "High Drama in Foggy Bottom," 
Saturday Review, January 1, 1972, for comment on this matter. 

15. /. F. Stone's Weekly, February 27 and March 6, 1967, from which the informa- 
tion given here is taken. Much of his evidence derives from reporting by Raymond 
Coffey, one of the small group of U.S. correspondents who, over the years, refused to 
be fooled. 

16. The New York Times edition of the Pentagon Papers (Bantam, 1971, p. 525) 
repeats President Johnson's claim that the renewed bombing was a response to the 
"unparalleled magnitude of the North Vietnamese supply effort," mentioning none of 
the facts just cited, though the Times had carried some of this information. See 
"Vietnam Cease-Fire Ends without Sign of Extension," Special to the New York Times, 
datelined Saigon, February 12, which cites reports from correspondents in the provinces 
north and northwest of Saigon that "the highways were much more crowded than usual 
with United States convoys," and also notes that U.S. military officers confirmed "that 

The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 199 

they were moving extraordinary amounts of food, fuel and ammunition to forward 

17. The Lost Crusade, Dodd, Mead, 1970, p. 362. 

18. Joseph Buttinger, Neues Forum, Vienna, 1966, cited by E. Herman, Atrocities 
in Vietnam, Pilgrim Press, 1970, p. 22. 

19. M. Maneli, The War of the Vanquished, Harper, 1971, p. 32, referring to the 
findings of the ICC. Maneli was the legal and political adviser to the Polish delegation 
of the ICC at the time, and is strongly anti-Communist. 

20. The actual U.S.-GVN altitude toward the Geneva settlement is revealed not only 
by the rejection of the central elections provision — contrary to Gelb, the most severe 
violation of the status quo established at Geneva — but also by the violent repression of 
the Vietminh. Article 14c of the Accords protects individuals and organizations from 
reprisal or discrimination on account of their activities during the hostilities. The re- 
pression of the anti-French resistance not only reveals the U.S.-GVN attitude toward 
the Geneva Accords, but also exhibits quite clearly the character of the new regime. 

21. See Gravel ed., 1:573 ff. NSC 5429/2, August 20, 1954, immediately after 
Geneva, urged "covert operations on a large and effective scale" in support of such 
policies as "mak[ing] more difficult the control by the Viet Minh of North Vietnam" 
(DOD, book 10, p. 737). 

The behavior of France after Geneva was, incidentally, almost as deplorable as that 
of the DRV: "French insistence on strict legal interpretation of the Geneva Accords 
was one example of accommodation thinking" (Gravel ed., 1:221; analyst). There were 
others, hardly less insidious. 

22. Kahin and Lewis, op. cit., p. 74, referring to the bishoprics of Phat Diem and 
Bui Chu, which, according to Bernard Fall, "packed up lock, stock, and barrel, from 
the bishops to almost the last village priest and faithful" ( The Two Viet-Nams, revised 
edition, Praeger, 1964, p. 154). For accuracy one should also add Fall's observation 
that an extremely intensive and well-conducted American psychological warfare opera- 
tion was a major factor in the mass flight. 

23. What is at issue is the logic of Gelb's argument and the significance of the facts 
he omits, not an impossible comparison of historically very different revolutions. 

24. Critics of the war sometimes fall into this trap. For an example, see my discus- 
sion of Telford Taylor's important book Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American 
Tragedy, Quadrangle Books, 1970, in "The rule of force in international affairs," Yale 
Law Journal, June 1971. 

25. To cite an example, selected virtually at random, consider this remark by a 
reviewer in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 
January 1972, p. 244: "Since De Caux is an unreconstructed radical, he makes no 
pretense of objectivity." How often does one come across the statement: "Since X is 
an unreconstructed liberal (or conservative, or adherent of capitalist democracy), he 
makes no pretense of objectivity"? 

26. One was captured on August 18, the same day that Hanoi claimed to have shot 
down a Thai pilot over DRV territory according to the document confirming the DRV 
reports (Gravel ed., 111:609). See Gareth Porter, "After Geneva: Subverting Laotian 
Neutrality," in N. S. Adams and A. W. McCoy, Laos: War and. Revolution, Harper, 
1970, p. 201. 

27. These remarks are expanded from my article on the Pentagon Papers in Ameri- 
can Report, July 2, 1971. Similar points are discussed by T. D. Allman, Far Eastern 
Economic Review, July 3, 1971. 

28. What is available is reviewed in At War with Asia, chapter 4. 

29. See Porter, op. cit. Arthur Dommen suggests that the Meo guerrillas, "sitting 
astride the natural communication route between Vientiane and the NLHS base area 

i in Sam Neua," may have hampered communication sufficiently to have caused deteriora- 
' lion of the well-developed NLHS infrastructure in Vientiane Province {op. cit., p. 308). 
' He does not go on to point out, as Porter does, that U.S. support for the guerrillas 
constituted a very serious violation of the Geneva Agreements, from the outset, and a 
ji major factor in the renewal of conflict. 

200 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V \ 

30. Paul F. Langer and Joseph J. Zasloff, The North Vietnamese Military Adviser l 
/■// Laos, RM-5688, RAND Corporation, July 1968. Cf. At War with Asia, pp. 230 ff., ' 
for summary and discussion. The ICC report noted above states that the earlier Pathet j 
Lao complaint is discussed "in a separate message." The British government has so far ? 
released only the report investigating the RLG complaint. Perhaps this is another ex- | 
ample of the "continuing support for your policy over Vietnam" voiced by Prime | 
Minister Wilson when informed about the impending attack on North Vietnamese j 
petroleum facilities (despite his "reservations about this operation" [Gravel ed., IV: \ 
102]). j 

31. Fred Branfman estimates that by 1970 the U.S. had brought at least 10,000 
Asians into Laos as mercenaries, in comparison with the perhaps 5,000 North Viet- | 
namese engaged in combat ("Presidential War in Laos, 1964-1970," in Adams and | 
McCoy, op. cit., 266, 278 ff., where the basis for the latter figure is discussed). ; 
Lansdale's report of July 1961 (Gravel ed., 11:643 ff.) describes some of the early [ 
stages of these operations. The White Star Mobile Training Teams, consisting of U.S. | 
Special Forces personnel, which were introduced into Laos covertly in the last few | 
weeks of the Eisenhower Administration (Stevenson, op. cit., p. 185), or perhaps in 1! 
1959 (Porter, op. cit., p. 183) "had the purpose and effect of establishing U.S. control j 
over foreign forces" (Gravel ed., 11:464). Laos was serving as a model for Vietnam, \ 
in this and other instances. | 

32. Austin, The President's War, 1971, pp. 229-230. 

33. Gravel ed., Ill: 150. The chronology on p. 117 states that on May 11, 1963, CIA- j 
sponsored covert operations against NVN were "authorized," but this appears to be an j 
error, apparently referring to NSAM 52 of 11 May 1961. I 

34. According to official testimony in the Symington Subcommittee Hearings on | 
Laos, the radar installation at Phou Pha Thi, near the DRV border, was constructed in j 
1966. T. D. Allman cites "reliable American sources" who give the date as late 1964. 1 
Cf. Stevenson, op. cit., p. 310. \ 

35. Admiral Felt (CINCPAC) had warned of just this possibility more than two j 
years before (Gravel ed., 11:83). l 

36. Introduction to Document No. 96, "The Viet-Nam Worker's Party's 1963 De- \ 
cision to Escalate the War in the South," American Embassy, Saigon, July 1971. I am i 
indebted to Arthur Dommen for providing me with a copy. The title, of course, is 
given by the U.S. Mission. 

37. The timing of the "discovery" of captured documents has, more than once, been ' 
slightly suspicious. For example, shortly after the exposure of the My Lai massacre a 
document was "discovered" that had been mysteriously mislaid for a year and a half i 
"purporting to boast that at least 2,748 persons were 'eliminated' " in Hue during the 
Tet offensive (Fred Emery, London Times, November 27, 1969; the document was 
reportedly found in April 1968 but had been "overlooked"). ; 

38. Boston Globe-L.A. Times, June 30, 1971. i 

39. Cf. An Outline History of the Vietnam Worker's Party, Hanoi, 1970, pp. 123, ] 
181-182, 136; and elsewhere, repeatedly. 

40. Obviously, a question arises as to the authenticity of the documents. We know 
that U.S. inntelligence has been planting forged Vietnamese documents since 1954 
(Gravel ed., 1 : 579 ) . See my note 37. i 

41. The first careful study of this matter is T. Draper's Abuse of Power, which is ; 
also useful for its revealing analysis of the internal contradictions in the U.S. govern- 
ment accounts, in particular, the remarkable statements of Dean Rusk. 

42. Boston Globe, October 19, 1971. 

43. Gravel ed., 111:438. This reference is said to have confirmed a report of Febru- 
ary 1965. In the appended chronology, the analyst states that "As of late 1964 the 
supply of repatriated southerners infiltrated back from NVN had dried up and NVN I 
volunteers were coming down the trail" (Gravel ed., 111:410). There is no incon- i 
sistency. The distinction is between individual soldiers coming down the trail and * 
regular units in military operations. Public Pentagon reports, Chester Cooper's report 
{op cit,), and Senator Mansfield, refer to one battalion, rather than one regiment, in 

The Pentagon Papers as Propaganda and as History 201 

April-May. The analyst refers to the "confirmed presence" in the South of at least one 
battalion" in April 1965 (Gravel ed., 111:392). 

44. Roger Hilsman claims that in summer 1965 it was learned that at least one 
battalion of North Vietnamese regulars had entered the South by February 1965. 
There is no record of this in the Pentagon Papers. "Two American Counterstrategies 
to Guerrilla Warfare," in Tang Tsou, ed., China in Crisis, vol. 2, Chicago, 1968, note 9, 
p. 294-295. On p. 293 he states inconsistently that fear of bombing "had deterred 
Hanoi from infiltrating any of their 250,000 regular North Vietnamese troops into 
South Vietnam." He also states that there were fewer infiltrators in 1964 than in 1962. 
This is interesting. The analyst remarks that the judgments of "rise and change in the 
nature of infiltration" in August 1964 may have been influenced by the fact that they 
were expected, in reaction to the "Tonkin reprisals," and that evidence of greatly in- 
creased infiltration from the North was an explicit condition for "systematic military 
action against DRV," which leading officials were beginning to regard as "inevitable" 
(Gravel ed., 111:192). 

45. The French, following a more classical imperial pattern, relied primarily on 
mercenaries rather than French nationals, and never sent conscripts to Vietnam. There 
were about 20,000 French nationals fighting in all Indochina in February 1949, about 
51,000 (plus 6,000 advisers) in all Indochina as of April 1953 {DOD, book 8, p. 179; 
Gravel ed., 1:400). Of course, French firepower was a tiny fraction of that available 
to U.S. forces. 

46. DOD, book 8, 190-191. Characteristically, he added that this appeared to be 
the only way to safeguard Vietnam from "aggressive designs Commie Chi[na]." 

47. Ibid., 145, 148, State Dept. Policy Statement of September 1948. 

48. Ibid., 196, May 1949: "Question whether Ho as much nationalist as Commie is 
irrelevant." He is an "outright Commie," and that is all that matters. 

49. Gravel ed., IV:488-489. He also points out once again (487) that in the Delta, 
with 40 percent of the population, the VC effort is primarily indigenous and the North 
Vietnamese main force units play almost no role (though U.S. combat forces were 
operating). Still, he is able to say that our objective is to permit the people of South 
Vietnam to determine their own future. On reports of NVA forces in the Delta, see 
At War with Asia, pp. 99-100. 

50. It might be added that the policy later called "Vietnamization" was recom- 
mended in mid-1967 by systems analysis; Gravel ed., IV:459, 467; cf. also 558, option 
(4); 564. 

51. My reasons for believing this are presented in articles in Ramparts, April, May, 
1972. See also Gabriel Kolko, "The Nixon Administration's strategy in Indochina — 
1972," Paris World Assembly, February 1972. 

52. Cited from AFP, in South Vietnam: Realities and Prospects, Vietnamese Studies, 
no. 18/19, Hanoi, 1968, p. 27. 

53. See Peter King, "The Political Balance in Saigon," Pacific Affairs, fall 1971, for 
a detailed analysis. Also Gareth Porter, "The Diemist restoration," Commonweal, July 
11, 1969. 


12. The Rise and Fall 

of "Counterinsurgency": 1961-1964 

by David G. Man 

John F. Kennedy came to the White House in early 1961 on only the slimmest I 

of pluralities. Yet he had taken the measure of the public, beyond party affilia- j 

tions, and judged it to be deeply troubled by the Sputnik diplomacy of the Soviet 1 

Union and painfully eager for reassertion of the American Dream throughout \ 

the world. The myth of a monolithic international Communist conspiracy directed I 

against a pristine Free World continued to energize millions. j 

Ngo Dinh Diem was Vietnamese anticommunism incarnate. He had helped ; 

repress the Indochinese Communist party in the 1930s. His elder brother had { 

been killed by the Viet-Minh in 1945. With American assistance he had mounted | 

a massive propaganda campaign in 1954 to persuade the Catholic minority of \ 

north and north-central Vietnam that the Holy Virgin Mary was leaving for j 

Saigon, and that those who failed to follow her would be ruthlessly exterminated j 

by the victorious Viet-Minh. Then, from 1956 onward, he had himself proceeded I 

to kill or incarcerate tens of thousands of South Vietnamese as suspected Com- ' 

munists. ' 

Three confrontations preoccupied President Kennedy during his first year in \ 
office: Cuba, Berlin and Laos. In Cuba, the Bay of Pigs fiasco gave the entire ' 
Kennedy Administration a touchy inferiority complex, which often led it to be 
more combative elsewhere. Berlin, however, could not be settled on American ! 
terms without risk of nuclear holocaust. And Laos was a tormented, confusing i 
mudhole. The United States, it was said by mid- 1961, would be lucky to stave 
off complete Communist victory in Laos with some sort of internationally sanc- 
tioned neutralist coalition, no matter how shaky. : 

This sort of thinking led the Kennedy Administration to fix its eyes more ' 
and more on South Vietnam. There, despite massive increments of U.S. military 

and economic assistance, Ngo Dinh Diem was again facing millions of South i 

Vietnamese who openly denied the legitimacy of his regime. Whatever the reali- ' 

ties of the situation. Diem clearly regarded the new National Liberation Front, ! 
founded in December 1960, as a mere appendage thrust at him by his real Com- 
munist enemies — Nikita Khrushchev, Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi Minh. He was 

very upset by evident U.S. unwillingness to attack forcefully in Laos, and he | 

badgered every American he met with quotations from Khrushchev's January \ 

1961 speech on Soviet support for wars of national liberation. ' 

Diem need not have bothered. Cold War warriors like Rostow, Rusk, Taylor, | 

Lansdale and McNamara were all on the same wavelength. As the Laos negotia- \ 

tions dragged on through the summer and fall of 1961, the Kennedy Admin- 1 
istration made deadly serious plans to "draw the line" in South Vietnam. Simi- 
larly to China in the late 1940s, the United States would try to do the impossible 

Copyright © 1972 by David G. Marr. 

The Rise and Fall of "Counterinsurgency": 1961-1964 203 

— "save" a country from its own people. ^ Inevitably this was phrased in terms 
of preventing a Communist sweep of not only South Vietnam, but of all main- 
land Southeast Asia and perhaps the entire western Pacific. ^ 

The great hope of the Kennedy Administration in Vietnam was counterinsur- 
gency. As with most theories, this quickly came to mean different things to dif- 
ferent people. Nevertheless, as counterinsurgency was in fact applied in South 
Vietnam, it bore striking resemblances to nineteenth-century French techniques 
going by the title of "pacification," or for that matter, earlier tactics used by 
Vietnamese monarchs to suppress peasant rebellions.^ 

From the very beginning, counterinsurgency in Vietnam emphasized military 
considerations over political ones, enforcement of "physical security" over more 
subtle questions of social change or psychological loyalties. In short, it was blatant 
counterrevolution over revolution, although few Americans involved at the time 
seemed prepared to acknowledge this. 

As a young U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer I learned these things slowly, 
more or less from the ground floor working upward. Sent to the Monterey Army 
Language School in 1961 to study Vietnamese, for example, I soon discovered 
that almost all of the vocabulary was military and, worse yet, Vietnamese in- 
structors were being forced to coin entirely new words to conform with a set of 
technical English terms prescribed for all thirty-four languages taught at the 
school. Not surprisingly, when tried out in Vietnam such words received nothing 
but blank stares, and were promptly forgotten. 

More seriously, as the only Vietnamese-speaking American among 550 marines 
making up the first marine helicopter squadron sent to Vietnam by President 
Kennedy, I was surprised to discover that my immediate superiors were only 
interested in classical combat intelligence, not the "new" counterinsurgency varia- 
bles taught by Thompson, Trager, Lansdale, Fall or Valeriano. My colonel sim- 
ply wanted to know if "the enemy" was located in village "A" or village "B," 
whether he had weapons larger than 30 caliber that would force us to fly above 
1,500 feet,^ and what the weather was going to be like tomorrow. The colonel 
cared not a wink about the political "infrastructure," the relationship of the 
"insurgents" to the local population, or the social program and essential motiva- 
tions of the NLF. 

In August 1962 we had a key role in one of the first division-size search-and- 
destroy operations conducted by the Saigon army. Code-named "Binh Tay" 
(Pacify the West), the objective was to break up several elite NLF battalions 
and to scare the local populace into submission with a massive display of heli- 
copters, fighter-bombers, armored personnel carriers and gunboats. As might 
have been predicted, however, the NLF saw what was happening several days 
in advance and quickly moved into inaccessible mangrove forests or broke into 
small teams, hid their weapons, and blended with the villagers for the duration 
of the operation. Once the aircraft, armored vehicles and trucks left the area — 
leaving behind smoking villages, plowed-up rice fields, and several hundred dead 
citizens — the NLF battalions resumed their operations with more success and 
public support than before. A report that I filed up the U.S. Marine chain-of- 
command, strongly critical of this approach to counterinsurgency, received no 
attention whatsoever.^ 

While my superior officers on the one hand thus showed no interest in the 
! political subtleties of the conflict, on the other hand they did many things of 
i a political nature that played right into the hands of the NLF. For example, 
i helicopters were sent almost every day to several fortified Catholic communities 
^ in the area, laden with a shopping list ranging from barbed wire to beer. These 

204 Grovel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

were militantly anti-Communist refugees from the North, in a surrounding sea of j 
antagonized Buddhists, Hoa Hao and ethnic Cambodians, and their only reliable I 
means of supply were our U.S. helicopters. In another incident, taking place | 
after our squadron had been switched with a U.S. Army squadron and sent to | 
Da-Nang, reckless marine drivers ran over several innocent Vietnamese pedes- j 
trians. The marine colonel in command alienated not only the local townspeople, j 
but also the Vietnamese police investigators by deciding unilaterally to spirit the ' 
offenders out of the country, on the grounds that a court case would "damage 
their military careers." Another colonel flew in a piano and a stereo set for his 
favorite Vietnamese girl friend, and provided her family with the lucrative fresh ' 
vegetable and garbage contracts for the marine base. Yet when the mayor of 
Da-Nang proposed that rampant prostitution be handled by concentrating it in ; 
one large, inspected whorehouse for Americans, the colonels all protested that \ 
the merest whiff in U.S. Capitol corridors of such an arrangement would cost f 
them their careers. While in retrospect each of these incidents may appear minor, | 
particularly when compared with American-perpetrated outrages after 1965, it | 
is important to see how things really got started, and why many ordinary Viet- | 
namese had reason to hate the United States long before the first combat battal- j 
ions set foot on their soil. | 

Reassigned to the U.S. Pacific command headquarters in Hawaii in mid-1963, | 
it was a revelation for me to discover that not only the colonels, but also the | 
generals and admirals were fundamentally bored by the political complexities . 
of Vietnam. After the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, in November 1963, I \ 
thought it particularly important to try to brief them on all the changes taking r 
place, on each of the new faces showing up. Soon my feelings were hurt, how- 
ever, when they cut my regular political analysis in half, a mere five minutes out 
of a one-hour briefing. Whenever they had no choice but to mention the name : 
of a Vietnamese personality, they would resort to nicknames such as "Big" and ^ 
"Little" Minh, the "Dragon Lady" (Madame Nhu), and "Colonel Yankee." ® ; 

Later, in a major marine training exercise on Molokai Island, I tried to in- ! 
corporate some rudimentary political elements into a rather standard intelligence 
scenario. But the commander of the attacking blue forces, the "good guys" of 
the operation, simply ignored those aspects and marched his forces from one 
ridgeline to the next in classic Korean War fashion. Back at headquarters in 
Honolulu, I got into an intense argument with my intelligence contemporaries 
over which had to come first in counterinsurgency, physical security of the 
populace against "guerrilla terrorism," or fundamental political and social changes i 
that would make the government legitimate and security a more manageable , 

When I left the Marine Corps in June 1964 it was already obvious that enforce- ' 
ment of physical security — convenient rhetoric for violent repression — had be- 
come the overwhelming theme in counterinsurgency. At the time it seemed to 
me a clear case of stupidity, due to our lack of knowledge of the particular 
historical situation in Vietnam, and perhaps too our more general insensitivity , 
toward the problems of nonwhite peoples in the world. Since then I have come 
to the realization that neither more knowledge nor more sensitivity would have 
changed U.S. policy much, assuming that our overall strategic objective of de- \ 
feating communism in Vietnam remained the same, \ 

Grim anticommunism, aimed at combating a supposedly grim, monolithic . 
communism, made any serious, high-level consideration of the history, culture 
and political dynamics of Vietnam essentially irrelevant. If the real enemies were 
in Moscow and Peking, and the local people were mere pawns in a giant power 

The Rise and Fall of "Counterinsurgency" : 1961-1964 205 

play, then what did it matter that local Communists had led the mass victorious 
anticolonial struggle in Vietnam, or that the NLF was more popular than the 
Saigon regime? To a certain extent, American policymakers knew, or at least 
sensed, that they were working from a position of real political weakness in 
South Vietnam. Yet they went ahead anyway, and developed all sorts of financial, 
military and technocratic gimmicks to try to compensate. When it was perceived, 
in late 1964 or early 1965, that all these measures had failed, it became necessary 
to take more drastic steps that had been implicit all along: bombing the North 
and throwing in U.S. combat troops. Meanwhile, many of the practices developed 
in the 1961-1964 period continued, but with a ruthlessness that made a mockery 
of any political program put forth by either the U.S. or Saigon. The original 
Eisenhower phrase, "winning hearts and minds," had been reduced in the field 
to an acronym — WHAM — and ironically this brought out the true content of 

The complete ascendancy of repressive military tactics and thinking during 
the counterinsurgency phase had many other implications. First of all, it almost 
always led to sublime overconfidence. General Lansdale, who had helped estab- 
lish Diem and might have known how frail the system really was, wrote policy 
papers for President Kennedy in early 1961 that exuded optimism and recom- 
mended simply a little more muscle for the Saigon army (ARVN) and some 
minor bureaucratic reshuffling (Gravel edition, 11:23-27, 52-53). Since NLF 
strength was usually viewed in terms of a certain number of soldiers and weapons, 
not as a mass revolutionary movement, it is hardly surprising that U.S. military 
contingency planners consistently underestimated the number of troops and 
I amounts of money needed to defeat the enemy."^ 

f Paradoxically, each new increment of American military technology in Viet- 
nam represented an unwitting admission of counterinsurgency failure, and indeed 
further served to nail the lid on the coffin. Our glistening helicopter squadrons, 
such sources of pride and expectation among the generals, were a prime example. 
I "The sky is a highway without roadblocks," rhapsodized Senator Henry Jackson 
I in 1963 after careful briefings from his Pentagon cronies. "The helicopter," he 
|i continued, "frees the government forces from dependence on the poor road 
1 system and the canals which are the usual arteries of communication." ^ How- 
ever, such mobility bore a very serious, if hidden pricetag. Since about 80 percent 
of the people of Vietnam happened to live along those "usual arteries," and 
since the helicopter could never hope to tie in all or most of the villages on a 
day-to-day basis, increased air travel tended inevitably to draw the Saigon regime 
ever further away from the humdrum realities of creating political and social 
credibility at the local level. As the American crews and ARVN soldiers floated 
blithely across the monsoon clouds, swooping down occasionally to wreak de- 
struction or supply an isolated blockhouse, the NLF went ahead patiently to 
expand its organization along the roads and canals, gradually surrounding the 
district and provincial towns. When it finally became evident to U.S. military 
planners that helicopters were not stopping the enemy, it was natural they would 
miss or ignore the real reasons and choose instead to escalate the technology 
with fighter-bombers, gunships, and — eventually — B-52s, that penultimate weapon 
of mass, indiscriminate terror. 

But generals were not the only ones subject to grave miscalculation. Dean 
i Rusk and Robert McNamara thought that a combination of Vietnamese draft 
reform, stepped up mobilization and streamlining of the ARVN command struc- 
ture would be enough to turn the tide.^ Sir Robert Thompson proposed to com- 
|> bine "clear and hold" operations with the most stringent police measures, out 


206 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/ Vol. V 

of which grew the ambitious and abortive strategic hamlet program (Gravel ed., I 

11:139-140).^*^ Even Roger Hilsman, who perhaps spoke up more often than j 

most on the NLF as a political rather than military threat, still accepted the | 

argument that physical security was an essential prerequisite to his pet "civic \ 

action" programs (Gravel ed., 11:142). ^ 

Behind such security fixations lay several a priori judgments on the Vietnamese j 
people and Vietnamese society. It was usually assumed, for example, that the 

Vietnamese peasants worried only about where their next bowl of rice was \ 

coming from. They had little interest in affairs beyond their home village. Their | 

ideal was to be "left alone." Unlike more advanced Westerners, it was said, ] 
Vietnamese peasants found little meaning or value in political ideology, except 
perhaps some archaic Confucian maxims. Those accepting Communist ideology 

had been duped or coerced, or perhaps attracted by promises of bigger rice : 

bowls. In short, with neither the desire nor capability for profound national | 

identifications, the peasants were mere "reeds in the wind," and would lean i 

whichever way the guns were pointed. It thus followed that the outside elite | 

with the best techniques of organized violence would inevitably triumph. From j 

physical security all else flowed. j 

Needless to say, the French colonials had harbored such patronizing, racist j 

ideas about the Vietnamese peasantry long before American counterinsurgency j 

specialists picked them up. At Dien Bien Phu and scores of lesser-known battle- 1 

fields, the French paid with their lives for their prejudices, simply refusing to ) 

believe that hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese peasants would fight and die, * 

willingly, for a cause beyond themselves. American specialists like Lansdale, | 

Trager and Pike never got this message, or if they did, they blanked it out in j 
favor of a neater, less disturbing Communist/anti-Communist dynamic. i 

In somewhat similar fashion, all Vietnamese, including the educated elites, 
were expected by American policymakers to respond in fairly obvious fashion to 

U.S. applications of pleasure or pain. From Walt Rostow in Washington, with \ 

his programs of graduated terror against Hanoi, to U.S. privates in the field, ' 

tossing chewing gum to scurrying Vietnamese children, Pavlovian carrot-and- ' 
stick reasoning held complete sway.^^ Once in a while even the canine aspect of 

Pavlov's model peeked through, as when Rostow recommended that we tell ' 
Moscow to "use its influence with Ho Chi Minh to call his dogs off, mind his 
business, and feed his people." 

When Vietnamese failed to salivate on schedule, the inevitable U.S. reaction i 

was to escalate the increments of pleasure and pain. Sometimes our own Saigon \ 

clients were the least predictable, as in August 1963 when Diem and his brother \ 

Nhu ignored intense American pressures and proceeded to raid the Buddhist ' 
pagodas. In the end, Diem and Nhu became so angry and cynical about Amer- 
ican attitudes and activities that they put out vague feelers to Ho Chi Minh and 
the NLF. This was a deadly mistake on their part, however, since we only valued 

them for their militant antipathy to the Communists. The United States ended \ 

up having the old dogs killed and picking some new ones to work on. ; 

The entire relationship between U.S. master and Vietnamese client deserves ; 

some exploration here, since it was an integral part of each counterinsurgency \ 

scheme in the period 1961-1964, and since the basic arrangement existing today \ 
really solidified by no later than June 1965. American military and government 
personnel, particularly those with extensive field experience in Vietnam, have 
often vehemently denied the whole master-client relationship, citing numerous 
factual examples where South Vietnamese "counterparts" ignored or even re- 
jected their "advice." On the other hand, most critics of U.S. involvement have 

The Rise and Fall of "Counterinsurgency" : 1961-1964 207 

developed an image whereby an all-powerful American puppeteer simply pulled 
the strings on an otherwise inert Saigon puppet. And certain events can be cited 
to buttress this position too — for example, the overthrow of Diem, the dumping 
of General Duong Van Minh three months later, and the strong anticoup pro- 
tection given Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Van Thieu after mid- 1965. 

However, neither position is completely accurate. First of all, the U.S. -Saigon 
relationship changed perceptively over time. In 1954-1956 the U.S. was very 
deeply involved in selecting Diem, pushing him ahead of all French candidates, 
and then giving him the necessary money, guns and political protection to crush 
each opposition element, one by one. During the next four years, nevertheless, 
the United States stepped back from day-to-day management and allowed Diem 
to handle matters in more or less his own way, confident of course that his 
staunch anticommunism was the best servant of our interests. 

But by late 1961 Diem's position, and that of the entire Saigon regime, was 
clearly eroding away. President Kennedy reacted by sending in not only the 
armed U.S. helicopter squadrons, mentioned previously, but also modem prop- 
jet transports, logistical support groups, and numerous overt and covert intelli- 
gence teams. Equally significant was the shift in missions for U.S. advisory ele- 
ments already in place. From late 1961 onward, there was to be "U.S. par- 
ticipation in the direction and control of GVN military operations," and on 
the civilian side U.S. personnel were briefed for "insertion into the Governmental 
machinery of South Viet-Nam." Although it was to be several years before 
such arrangements were put in writing with the Saigon regime, in fact a parallel 
U.S. hierarchy had been established and came to assume progressively more 
power as the political and military situation continued to deteriorate inside South 

An interesting case of how the system developed and operated is in intelli- 
gence and counterintelligence. By 1961 American officials could see that the 
South Vietnamese regime was not getting reliable information at village and 
district levels. And since there was a jumble of separate intelligence agencies, 
sometimes conflicting with each other, what little information the regime did 
acquire was not being handled properly. In Quang Tri province, for example, I 
found that while the seven district chiefs passed their data and captured NLF 
suspects to the Secret Police (Cong An), the latter refused to let the military 
Sector Commander's S-2 (intelligence officer) see any of it or interrogate the 
prisoners. The Secret Police also kept a tight hold over their personality files, 
which were heavy on former Viet-Minh activists. However — and this is the 
important part — the Secret Police did grudgingly allow the American provincial 
adviser the access that they denied to the Sector Commander, so that the Amer- 
ican served increasingly as an informed intermediary. 

Meanwhile, the regular ARVN units in Quang Tri were out of both of these 
channels entirely, sending their scant information back to First Division head- 
quarters in Hue. This problem was "solved" by having the U.S. advisers assigned 
to these regular army echelons exchange data with the U.S. provincial adviser. 
Not surprisingly, the latter individual became increasingly powerful in Quang 
Tri, especially since he also had a special "slush-fund" to pay off his own agents, 
and to parcel out to his "counterpart" on an achievement basis. 

Beyond the three networks mentioned above, there was also a Vietnamese 
"DMZ Security" group, which sent intelligence directly to the Presidential Palace 
in Saigon. And there was an apparatus called SMI AT (Special Military Intelli- 
^ gence Advisory Team), completely controlled by Americans, which was trying 
to build a major clandestine agent net across the border into Laos and North 

208 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/ Vol. V 

Vietnam. All five elements, however, relied heavily on a relatively small number 
of paid informants, often the same people who had lived well off the French in 
a similar capacity. i 

The admittedly cursory analysis I made of the intelligence situation in all of ' 
central Vietnam in 1962-1963 led me to some unsettling conclusions about the 
various Vietnamese involved, and, beyond that, their apparent alienation from \ 
the bulk of the populace. From the Pentagon Papers it is evident that Amer- 
icans at much higher levels in both Saigon and Washington saw essentially the \ 
same things, in other bureaus and ministries as well as intelligence. Yet their j 
responses were always technocratic, half-baked, as if they were trying to avoid il 
probing too far for fear the whole house of cards might come tumbling down. ■ 

In intelligence, for example again, they moved on the one hand to pressure 
Diem to reorganize and consolidate the Vietnamese "intelligence community," i! 
although he still saw solid anticoup benefits in keeping it divided. On the other j 
hand, the United States steadily expanded its own autonomous network in Viet- i 
nam, as a bypass mechanism and a powerful means of manipulation. After the | 
army's overthrow of Diem, U.S. knowledge of the thoughts and activities of \ 
Saigon's top leadership increased considerably, since the military was the one j 
group we had infiltrated early, had plenty of files on, and could easily surround j 
with "advisers" on a day-to-day basis. As might be expected, nevertheless, such 5 
developments tended to startle, to antagonize, many Vietnamese officers (usually | 
under the rank of colonel) who had been shielded from the true master-client \ 
relationship during the Diem period. Some of them withdrew from the army in ] 
disgust. Others stayed on, but showed their displeasure at American manipulation t 
so much that they were given "bad marks" and confined to paper-pushing jobs in \ 
supply, transportation, engineering and the like.^^ There were always other ! 
officers to take their places, however, men who knew they were servants of the ; 
Americans and, for one reason or another, were ready to make a good thing of it. j 

Thus it was that, not only in intelligence, but in all other sensitive fields, a 
crew of sycophants, money-grubbers and psychopaths moved to the fore. Essen- 
tially serving as power-brokers, they found endless ways both to oppress their I 
fellow countrymen and to delude their American masters. General Nguyen ' 
Khanh was the epitome of this new "leadership." For twelve months after de- : 
railing General Minh in January 1964, he held center stage in Saigon, posturing, 
shifting ground, bluffing Ambassador Taylor, trying to neutralize his yotunger 
rivals, preaching militant anticolonialism for public consumption while working 
feverishly behind the scenes for ever-deeper U.S. involvement. By early 1965 the , 
United States was "in" as never before, but General Khanh had incurred the 
wrath of Ambassador Taylor to such a degree that he must have known his 
days were numbered. Unlike the Diem/Lodge situation, however. General 
Khanh had taken the necessary personal precautions. Today he lives a com- 
fortable emigre existence in Paris. 

General Khanh also demonstrates in many ways why these cynical, corrupt 
people were clients or servants of the United States, but not really "puppets." , 
For example, Khanh played upon deep American fears of a "neutralist solution" 
to discredit the Duong Van Minh leadership group and gain support for his 
coup.^^ Once in power, Khanh kept stalling on his commitments to the United i 
States to mobilize the army and populace against the "Viet Cong threat," perhaps 
knowing it was futile. Instead, he pushed constantly for U.S. bombing of the \ 
North, U.S. ground troops in the South, and a commitment to him as the dictator- 
president of the country. Ironically, the more the United States committed itself 

The Rise and Fall of "Counterinsurgency : 1961-1964 209 

to Vietnam, the less reason there was for Khanh or any of his successors to think 
about "internal reform," much less social revolution. 

Without question, it was the very weakness of the combined U.S.-Saigon posi- 
tion that gave Khanh, Ky, Thieu, Khiem, and all the others a significant degree 
of leverage with their masters. Once these men were convinced that U.S. power 
and prestige was irrevocably committed, they could let the energetic, grim-faced 
Americans worry about holding off the Communists, while they spent most of 
their time trying to consolidate personal and clique power and privilege. When- 
ever the Americans protested about the Vietnamese not "carrying their share of 
the burden," they could make some more promises and reshuffle a few command- 
ers or ministers. If this wasn't enough, they might strike a pained, anticolonialist 
posture and hint at negotiations with the enemy (both Khanh and Ky did this) — 
although this was always a risky last resort. 

The United States could and did respond to these tactics several times by dump- 
ing one man or one clique. But the overall situation was always so tenuous that 
we could never risk throwing out the entire crew. Since our clients understood 
this fully as well as we did, they eventually made tacit arrangements among them- 
selves to slow down the political attrition, "divide up the territory," and share the 
spoils. Being highly ambitious men, this has not always worked. 21 Nevertheless, 
the continuity since June 1965, when General Ky took over as premier, has been 
striking. And it is likely to continue for as long as the United States remains 
committed to killing Vietnamese in order to save them. But not a day longer. 


1. The "saving" metaphor crops up repeatedly in documents of the period. In the 
Pentagon Papers, Gravel ed., see for example: Gen. Lansdale, 11:38; Vice-President 
Johnson, 11:59; and Rusk/McNamara, II: 111, 

2. Vice-President Johnson presents perhaps the most fearful picture. Gravel ed., 

3. The fact that even today American policymakers adhere to the term "pacification," 
and that their Saigon counterparts still employ the old feudal Vietnamese equivalent, 
binh-dinh, is testimony to how little they know, or care, about Vietnamese history and 
popular historical memories. 

4. Back in these "good old days" of U.S. intervention, the NLF had very few 50 
caliber machine guns, seized from ARVN. 20 millimeter antiaircraft guns were non- 
existent, not to mention larger-caliber weapons and missiles. 

5. A glowing if brief account of Operation Binh Tay is contained in Time magazine, 
August 31, 1962. 

6. The latter refers to Colonel Nguyen Van Y, head of Saigon's "Central Intelligence 
Organization" — an apparatus originally forced on Diem by the United States to try 
to unify intelligence processing and interpretation. Surprisingly, the "Yankee" nickname 
even crops up in a 1961 cable from Ambassador Durbrow. Gravel ed., 11:28. 

7. See for example the 1961 JCS estimates whereby 40,000 U.S. troops would be 
sufficient to "clean up" the Viet-Cong, or 205,000 to handle the situation if both the 
DRV and China entered the conflict too. Gravel ed., II: 108-109. 

8. Senator Henry Jackson, "A Key to Victory in Vietnam," Army, March 1963, p. 

9. "Memorandum for the President," November 11, 1961. Gravel ed., 11:115. 

10. 11:139-140. Thompson's subordinate, Denis Duncanson, has written the most 
comprehensive defense of these repressive tactics, in Government and Revolution in 
Vietnam (Oxford, 1968). 

210 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

11. Douglas Pike, Viet-Cong, the Organization and Techniques of the National 
Liberation Front of South Vietnam (MIT Press, 1966). Edward G. Lansdale, In the 
Midst of Wars (Harper and Row, 1972). 

12. In the period 1961-1964, see especially the famous Staley Report, where the 
overall objective is to "surpass the critical threshold of the enemy resistance" (Gravel 
ed., 11:63). The authors of the Pentagon Papers are no less guilty of such reasoning, 
as when on the basis of 1961-1967 experiences they conclude that there is a need for 
more "stick" and less "carrot" with the Saigon regime (Gravel ed., 11:415). In late 
1962 I traveled from village to village with U.S. Special Forces "civic action" teams 
and watched them gain public attention by passing out thousands of pieces of hard 
candy to children. The candy had been donated in big tins by an American manu- 

13. See also the authors of the Pentagon Papers using such images, as when they 
state that the United States forced General Nguyen Chanh Thi to get "back on his 
leash before it was too late" (Gravel ed., 11:99). 

14. The authors of the Pentagon Papers label this an "impudent" slap in the face to 
the United States. Gravel ed., 11:203. 

15. "Memorandum for the President," November 11, 1961. Gravel ed., 11:114. 

16. In aU fairness I should state here that I had not yet come to question the right 
of the United States to be in Vietnam, only the seemingly shoddy way we were doing 
things. It wasn't until early 1966 that I concluded we had no business there at all. 

17. During this period American "advisers" regularly sent in evaluations of their 
counterparts. These were combined with meticulous reports from supervisory personnel 
at bases in the United States where almost all South Vietnamese officers underwent 
training, and with gossip from paid agents, to make up an ever-expanding U.S. in- 
telligence personality file. If a Vietnamese officer was listed as "friendly," "cooperative," 
"eager to learn," "competent in English," he had a bright future. However, if he was 
"reserved," "suspicious," "reluctant to accept advice," he was in for trouble. 

18. A serious student of this whole master-client symbiosis could begin with the 
relationship between Taylor and Khanh over time. Taylor was outfoxed so often that 
it became something of a joke in top Saigon circles. But when Taylor came to realize 
this, of course he had the last word. 

19. There is far more evidence than is presented in the Pentagon Papers to indicate 
that the United States was very worried about President de Gaulle's neutralization 
proposals and the effects they might be having on the Saigon regime. David Marr, 
"Background on Coup in South Vietnam, 30 Jan. 1964," unpublished manuscript. David 
Marr, "The Political Crisis in Viet-Nam: 1963-1964," also unpublished. General 
Khanh, in a recent interview, has claimed that his American adviser. Colonel Jasper 
Wilson, helped him take over. Pacific News Service press release, February 1972. 

20. The Pentagon Papers demonstrate that whereas U.S. policymakers occasionally 
perceived this dilemma, they had no real answers to it. Gravel ed., 11:96, 202-203, 
280-281, 309, 330-332, 336, 345. 

21. One of the best examples is the continuing cutthroat competition at the highest 
levels for control of the illicit drug traffic. See Albert McCoy, The Politics of Heroin 
in Southeast Asia, Harper and Row, 1972. 


13. Vietnamization and the Drama 
of the Pentagon Papers 

by Peter Dale Scott 

The Nixon strategy which underlies both Vietnamization and the Peking visit 
envisages a return from overt to covert operations in Southeast Asia. The U.S. 
Army is being withdrawn from Vietnam, while Congressional exposures reveal 
the Mafia influence behind the corruption there of its senior personnel.^ But the 
Army's place is being filled by a billion-dollar "pacification" program, including 
an expansion of the CIA's controversial assassination project, Operation Phoenix. ^ 
Generally speaking, the responsibility for ground operations in Indochina (as 
opposed to the ongoing air war) is being taken from the regular military, and 
given back to the various U.S. intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA. The 
political success or "momentum" of the antiwar movement, at this point, is thus 
being exploited to strengthen the very intelligence activities which did so much to 
bring about the war in the first place. 

This amazing capacity of the intelligence apparatus to gather strength from 
its defeats was illustrated earlier after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Then as now the 
response of the government to the fiasco (an interagency fiasco, involving not 
only CIA but Air America, air force, and special forces personnel) was to 
strengthen, consolidate, and rationalize the "Special Group" or "303 Committee" 
apparatus which had produced it.^ In 1971 there were similar signs that the Viet- 
nam fiasco is being used to strengthen the case for relying on the "expertise" of 
the intelligence professionals. 

The elaborate drama of the Pentagon Papers must be assessed in the light of 
this bureaucratic retrenchment and consolidation. One feels about their publica- 
tion as one does about Mr. Nixon's Peking visit (which was announced just fifteen 
days after the courtroom drama of the Pentagon Papers had brought public sup- 
port for the Vietnam military adventure to a probable all-time low). It is possible 
to approve of both events, while fearing that they will help to perpetuate the 
imperialist intervention which superficially they appear to challenge. Daniel Ells- 
berg is undoubtedly a powerful and moving critic of conventional warfare in 
Vietnam, and one does not wish to sound ungrateful for his courageous revela- 
tions. When, however, he told the American nation on TV that "for the first time 
we are hearing the truth" about the war, he was proclaiming a false millennium. 

The Pentagon Papers are of value, but more for what they reveal inadvertently 
than for what they reveal by design. It would be foolish to expect candor from 
any government documents on Vietnam, whether written for internal or external 
consumption: at least one disaffected veteran from the White House staff has 
commented that he would have a less biased picture of the war if he had con- 
fined his reading to the newspapers. One Pentagon study repeats the old cliche 
about a "pro-communist . . . offensive" of May 1964 in Laos: it is considerably 

^'Copyright © 1972 by Peter Dale Scott. 

212 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol V 

more misleading than the original New York Times story which it partly echoes, 
and is inexcusable in the light of authoritative accounts which had already been 
published^ Another Pentagon study's account of the Tonkin Gulf incidents is 
little more than an abridgment of McNamara's clumsy misrepresentations of 1964 
and 1968 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.^ The House Committee's 
censored text of this study deletes its references to McNamara's "proof" of the 
second incident from alleged radio intercepts, including one "indicating that 
'North Vietnamese naval forces had been ordered to attack the patrol.' " ^ The 
most likely reason for censoring this already-published "proof" is that its false- 
hood had already been demonstrated J 

More serious than such particular instances of self-serving disinformation is 
the overall inherent bias in a record of Defense Department papers. Though the 
true history of our escalating involvement in Indochina is a history of covert and 
intelligence operations, most of the recent ones are barely recorded (two striking 
exceptions, the Diem coup of 1963 and the 34A Operations Plan of 1964, had 
already been amply publicized). Needless to say, there is even less documentation 
of key escalation decisions (such as Johnson's decision of 12 November 1966 to 
bomb Hanoi) which the President arrived at privately — either alone, or after con- 
sulting with his political intimates, such as Ed Weisl, Tommy Corcoran, and 
James Rowe, who represented the highest financial interests in the nation.^ 

With respect to events in November 1963, the bias and deception of the 
original Pentagon documents are considerably reinforced in the Pentagon studies 
commissioned by Robert McNamara. Nowhere is this deception more apparent 
than in the careful editing and censorship of the Report of a Honolulu Confer- 
ence on November 20, 1963, and of National Security Action Memorandum 273, 
which was approved four days later. Study after study is carefully edited so as to 
create a false illusion of continuity between the last two days of President Ken- 
nedy's presidency and the first two days of President Johnson's. The narrow divi- 
sion of the studies into topics, as well as periods, allows some studies to focus on 
the "optimism" ^ which led to plans for withdrawal on November 20 and 24, 
1963; and others on the "deterioration" and "gravity" which at the same meet- 
ings led to plans for carrying the war north. These incompatible pictures of con- 
tinuous "optimism" or "deterioration" are supported generally by selective censor- 
ship, and occasionally by downright misrepresentation: 

. . . National Security Action Memorandum 273, approved 26 November 
1963. The immediate cause for NSAM 273 was the assassination of President 
Kennedy four days earlier; newly-installed President Johnson needed to re- 
affirm or modify the policy lines pursued by his predecessor. President John- 
son quickly chose to reaffirm the Kennedy policies. . . . 

Emphasis should be placed, the document stated, on the Mekong Delta area, 
but not only in military terms. Political, economic, social, educational, and 
informational activities must also be pushed: "We should seek to turn the 
tide not only of battle but of belief. . . ." Military operations should be 
initiated, under close political control, up to within fifty kilometers inside of 
Laos. U.S. assistance programs should be maintained at levels at least equal 
to those under the Diem government so that the new GVN would not be 
tempted to regard the U.S. as seeking to disengage. 

The same document also revalidated the planned phased withdrawal of 
U.S. forces announced publicly in broad terms by President Kennedy shortly 
before his death : 

The objective of the United States with respect to the withdrawal of 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 213 

U.S. military personnel remains as stated in the White House statement of 
October 2, 1963. 

No new programs were proposed or endorsed, no increases in the level or 
nature of U.S. assistance suggested or foreseen. . . . The emphasis was on 
persuading the new government in Saigon to do well those things which the 
fallen government was considered to have done poorly. . . . NSAM 273 
had, as described above, limited cross-border operations to an area 50 kil- 
ometers within Laos.^^ 

The reader is invited to check the veracity of this account of NSAM 273 
against the text, as reconstructed from various sources, in our Appendix A. If the 
author of this study is not a deliberate and foolish liar, then some superior had 
denied him access to the second and more important page of NSAM 273, which 
"authorized planning for specific covert operations, graduated in intensity, against 
the DRV," i.e.. North Vietnam. As we shall see, this covert operations planning 
' soon set the stage for a new kind of war, not only through the celebrated 34A 
Operations which contributed to the Tonkin Gulf incidents, but also through the 
military's accompanying observations, as early as December 1963, that "only air 

■ attacks" against North Vietnam would achieve these operations' "stated objec- 
; tive." 1^ Leslie Gelb, the Director of the Pentagon Study Task Force and the 

■ author of the various and mutually contradictory Study Summaries, notes that, 
with this planning, "A firebreak had been crossed, and the U.S. had embarked on 
a program that was recognized as holding little promise of achieving its stated 

) objectives, at least in its early stages." We shall argue in a moment that these 
I crucial and controversial "stated objectives," proposed in CINCPAC's OPLAN 
f 34-63 of September 9, 1963, were rejected by Kennedy in October 1963, and 
! first authorized by the first paragraph of NSAM 273. 

i The Pentagon studies, supposedly disinterested reports to the Secretary of De- 
' fense, systematically mislead with respect to NSAM 273, which McNamara him- 
; self had helped to draft. Their lack of bona fides is illustrated by the general 
phenomenon that (as can be seen from our Appendix A), banal or misleading 
paragraphs (like 2, 3, and 5) are quoted verbatim, sometimes over and over, 
i whereas those preparing for an expanded war are either omitted or else referred 
j to obliquely. The only study to quote a part of the paragraph dealing with North 
I Vietnam does so from subordinate instructions: it fails to note that this language 
' was authorized in NSAM 27 3. 

And study after study suggests (as did press reports at the time) that the effect 
j of NSAM 273, paragraph 2, was to perpetuate what Mr. Gelb ill-advisedly calls 
"the public White House promise in October" to withdraw 1,000 U.S. troops. 
In fact the public White House statement on October 2 was no promise, but a 
personal estimate attributed to McNamara and Taylor. As we shall see, Kennedy's 
decision on October 5 to implement this withdrawal (a plan authorized by NSAM 
263 of October 11), was not made public until the Honolulu Conference of No- 
vember 20, when an Accelerated Withdrawal Program (about which Mr. Gelb is 
silent) was also approved. NSAM 273 was in fact approved on Sunday, Novem- 
ber 24, and its misleading opening paragraphs (including the meaningless re- 
affirmation of the "objectives" of the October 2 withdrawal statement) were 
leaked to selected correspondents. Mr. Gelb, who should know better, pretends 
j that NSAM 273 "was intended primarily to endorse the policies pursued by Pres- 
' ident Kennedy and to ratify provisional decisions reached [on November 20] in 
; Honolulu." In fact the secret effect of NSAM 273's sixth paragraph (which 
. unlike the second was not leaked to the press) was to annul the NSAM 263 with- 


214 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

drawal decision announced four days earlier at Honolulu, and also the Accelerated j 
Withdrawal Program: "both military and economic programs, it was emphasized, 

should be maintained at levels as high as those in the time of the Diem regime." 20 : 

The source of this change is not hard to pinpoint. Of the eight people known 

to have participated in the November 24 reversal of the November 20 withdrawal i 

decisions, five took part in both meetings. Of the three new officials present, the j 

chief was Lyndon Johnson, in his second full day and first business meeting as \ 
President of the United States. 22 The importance of this second meeting, like that 
of the document it approved, is indicated by its deviousness. One can only con- 
clude that NSAM 273 (2) 's public reaffirmation of an October 2 withdrawal 

"objective," coupled with 273 (6) 's secret annulment of an October 5 withdrawal j 

plan, was deliberately deceitful. The result of the misrepresentations in the Penta- ^ 

gon studies and Mr. Gelb's summaries is, in other words, to perpetuate a decep- i 

tion dating back to NSAM 273 itself. j 

This deception, I suspect, involved far more than the symbolic but highly sensi- 1 
five issue of the 1,000-man withdrawal. One study, after calling NSAM 273 a i 
"generally sanguine" "don't-rock-the-boat document," concedes that it contained i 
"an unusual Presidential exhortation": "The President expects that all senior j 
officers of the government will move energetically to insure full unity of support j 
for establishing U.S. policy in South Vietnam." in other words, the same docu- ; 
ment which covertly changed Kennedy's withdrawal plans ordered all senior offi- ( 
cials not to contest or criticize this change. This order had a special impact on j 
one senior official: Robert Kennedy, an important member of the National Se- 
curity Council (under President Kennedy) who was not present when NSAM 273 i 
was rushed through the forty-five minute "briefing session" on Sunday, Novem- 1 
ber 24. It does not appear that Robert Kennedy, then paralyzed by the shock of \ 
his brother's murder, was even invited to the meeting. Chester Cooper records i 
that Lyndon Johnson's first National Security Council meeting was not convened 
until Thursday, December 5.^4 i 


While noting that the "stated objectives" of the new covert operations plan 
against North Vietnam were unlikely to be fulfilled by the OPLAN itself, Mr. 
Gelb, like the rest of the Pentagon Study Authors, fails to inform us what these 
"stated objectives" were. The answer lies in the "central objective" defined by the ; 
first paragraph of NSAM 273: 

It remains the central objective of the United States in South Vietnam to 
assist the people and Government of that country to win their contest against 
the externally directed and supported communist conspiracy. The test of all i 
U.S. decisions and actions in this area should be the effectiveness of their 
contribution to this purpose.^^ \ 

To understand this bureaucratic prose we must place it in context. Ever since ' 
Kennedy came to power, but increasingly since the Diem crisis and assassination, ' 
there had arisen serious bureaucratic disagreement as to whether the U.S. com- 
mitment in Vietnam was limited and political ("to assist") or open-ended and 
military ("to win"). By its use of the word "win," NSAM 273, among other 
things, ended a brief period of indecision and division, when indecision itself was 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 215 

favoring the proponents of a limited (and political) strategy, over those whose 
preference was unlimited (and military 

In this conflict the seemingly innocuous word "objective" had come, in the 
Aesopian double-talk of bureaucratic politics, to be the test of a commitment. 
As early as May 1961, when President Kennedy was backing off from a major 
commitment in Laos, he had willingly agreed with the Pentagon that "The U.S. 
objective and concept of operations" was "to prevent Communist domination of 
South Vietnam." 27 In November 1961, however, Taylor, McNamara, and Rusk 
attempted to strengthen this language, by recommending that "We now take the 
decision to commit ourselves to the objective of preventing the fall of South Viet- 
nam to Communism." McNamara had earlier concluded that this "commitment 
... to the clear objective" was the "basic issue," adding that it should be accom- 
panied by a "warning" of "punitive retaliation against North Vietnam." Without 
this commitment, he added, "We do not believe major U.S. forces should be 
introduced in South Vietnam." 

Despite this advice, Kennedy, after much thought, accepted all of the recom- 
mendations for introducing U.S. units, except for the "commitment to the ob- 
jective" which was the first recommendation of all. NSAM 1 1 1 of November 22, 
1961, which became the basic document for Kennedy Vietnam policy, was issued 
without this first recommendation. Instead he sent a letter to Diem on Decem- 
ber 14, 1961, in which "the U.S. officially described the limited and somewhat 
ambiguous extent of its commitment: . . . 'our primary purpose is to help your 
people. . . . We shall seek to persuade the Communists to give up their attempts 
of force and subversion.' " One compensatory phrase of this letter ("the cam- 
paign . . . supported and directed from the outside") became (as we shall see) 
a rallying point for the disappointed hawks in the Pentagon; and was elevated to 
new prominence in NSAM 273(1 )'s definition of a Communist "conspiracy." 
It would appear that Kennedy, in his basic policy documents after 1961, avoided 
any use of the word "objective" that might be equated to a "commitment." The 
issue was not academic: as presented by Taylor in November 1961, this commit- 
ment would have been open-ended, "to deal with any escalation the communists 
might choose to impose." ^- 

In October 1963, Taylor and McNamara tried once again: by proposing to link 
the withdrawal announcement about 1,000 men to a clearly defined and public 
policy "objective" of defeating communism. Once again Kennedy, by subtle 
changes of language, declined to go along. His refusal is the more interesting 
when we see that the word and the sense he rejected in October 1963 (which 
would have made the military "objective" the overriding one) are explicitly sanc- 
tioned by Johnson's first policy document, NSAM 273. 

A paraphrase of NSAM 273's seemingly innocuous first page was leaked at the 
time by someone highly-placed in the White House to the Washington Post and 
the New York Times (see Appendix B). As printed in the Times by E. W. Ken- 
worthy this paraphrase went so far as to use the very words, "overriding objec- 
tive," which Kennedy had earlier rejected. This tribute to the words' symbolic 
importance is underlined by the distortion of NSAM 273, paragraph 1, in the 
Pentagon Papers, so that the controversial words "central objective" never once 
appear. 37 Yet at least two separate studies understand the "objective" to consti- 
tute a "commitment": "NSAM 273 reaffirms the U.S. commitment to defeat the 
yC in South Vietnam." This particular clue to the importance of NSAM 273 
in generating a policy commitment is all the more interesting, in that the Govern- 
ment edition of the Pentagon Papers has suppressed the page on which it appears. 

216 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

OCT. 2, 1963 
( McNamara-Taylor ) 

The security of South Viet- 
nam remains vital to 
United States security. For 
this reason we adhere to 
the overriding objective of 
denying this country to 
Communism and of sup- 
pressing the Viet Cong in- 
surgency as promptly as 

Although we are deeply 
concerned by repressive 
practices, effective per- 
formance in the conduct 
of the war should be the 
determining factor in our 
relations with the GVN.^^* 


OCT. 2, 1963 
(White House-Kennedy) 

The security of South Viet- 
nam is a major interest of 
the United States as other 
free nations. We will ad- 
here to our policy of work- 
ing with the people and 
Government of South Viet- 
nam to deny this country 
to communism and to sup- 
press the externally stimu- 
lated and supported insur- 
gency of the Viet Cong 
as promptly as possible. 
Effective performance in 
this undertaking is the cen- 
tral objective of our policy 
in South Vietnam. 

While such practices have 
not yet significantly af- 
fected the war effort, they 
could do so in the future. 

It remains the policy of 
the United States, in South 
Vietnam as in other parts 
of the world, to support 
the efforts of the people of 
that country to defeat ag- 
gression and to build a 
peaceful and free society.^ 


NOV. 26, 1963 
(White House-Johnson) 

It remains the central ob- 
jective of the United States 
in South Vietnam to assist 
the people and Govern- 
ment of that country to 
win their contest against 
the externally directed and 
supported communist con- 
spiracy. The test of all 
U.S. decisions and actions 
in this area should be the 
effectiveness of their con- 
tributions to this purpose.^ 


NSAM 273's suppression of Kennedy's political goal ("to build a peaceful and 
free society"), is accompanied by its authorization of planning for "selected 
actions of graduated (i.e., escalating) scope and intensity" against North Viet- 
nam. This shift from political to military priorities was properly symbolized by 
NSAM 273's use of the word "objective": for in November 1961 the rejected 
word had been linked to escalation proposals such as "the 'Rostow plan' of apply- 
ing graduated pressures" on North Vietnam,^^ which Kennedy had then also re- 
jected and which Johnson now also revived. Rostow personally was able to sub- 
mit to the new President "a well-reasoned case for a gradual escalation" within 
days of Kennedy's assassination and it is clear that NSAM 273 saw where such 
escalations might lead. In its last provision, which sounds almost as if it might 
have been drafted by Rostow personally, "State was directed to develop a strong, 
documented case 'to demonstrate to the world the degree to which the Viet Cong 
is controlled, sustained, and supplied from Hanoi, through Laos and other chan- 
nels." 42 

Vietnamizatinn and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 217 

At the time of this directive it was known, and indeed admitted in the U.S. 
press, that "all the weapons captured by the United States . . . were either 
homemade or had been previously captured from the GVN/USA." WiUiam 
Jordan, an official directed in January 1963 to get information on Northern in- 
filtration, had already reported on April 5 that he could not: "we are unable to 
document and develop any hard evidence of infiltration after October 1, 1962." "^"^ 
In the words of a State Department representative on the Special Group, "the 
great weight of evidence and doctrine proved 'that the massive aggression theory 
was completely phony.' " 

But where the January directive was to get information, NSAM 273's was 
different, to make a "case." The evidence for the "case" seems to have been 
uncovered soon after the directive, but at the price of controversy. 

By February 1964, apparently, 

The Administration was firmly convinced from interceptions of radio traffic 
between North Vietnam and the guerrillas in the South that Hanoi controlled 
and directed the Vietcong. Intelligence analyses of the time [February 12, 
1964] stated, however, that "The primary sources of Communist strength in 
South Vietnam are indigenous." 

This is interesting, for radio intercepts also supplied firm grounds for escalation 
during the Tonkin Gulf incidents of August 1964, the Pueblo incident of January 
1968, and the Cambodian invasion of May 1970 — three escalations which were 
all preceded by like controversies between intelligence operations and analysts. 
And in these three escalations the key intercept evidence later turned out to be 
highly suspicious if not indeed deliberately falsified or "phony." In like manner 
Congress should learn whether the radio intercepts establishing Hanoi's external 
direction and control of the Vietcong emerged before or (as it would appear) 
I after the directive to develop just such a "case." 

; It is clear that at the time the military and CIA understood the novel oppor- 
tunities afforded them by NSAM 273: within three weeks they had submitted an 
operations plan (the famous OPLAN 34A memorandum of December 19) which 

j unlike its predecessors included overt as well as covert and nonattributable oper- 

' ations against North Vietnam, up to and including air attacks.^^ Yet this novelty 
is denied by all the Pentagon studies which mention NSAM 273; it is 'admitted 
by only one Pentagon study (IV.C.2.b), which (as we shall see) discusses NSAM 
273 without identifying it. 

The full text of NSAM 273 of November 26, 1963, remains unknown. In all 
three editions of the Pentagon Papers there are no complete documents between 

i the five cables of October 30 and McNamara's memorandum of December 21; 
the 600 pages of documents from the Kennedy Administration end on October 
30. It is unlikely that this striking lacuna is accidental. We do, however, get an 
ominous picture of NSAM 273's implications from General Maxwell Taylor's 
memorandum of January 22, 1964: 

National Security Action Memorandum No. 273 makes clear the resolve of 
the President to ensure victory over the externally directed and supported 
communist insurgency in South Vietnam. . . . The Joint Chiefs of Staff are 
convinced that, in keeping with the guidance in NSAM 273, the United 
States must make plain to the enemy our determination to see the Vietnam 
campaign through to a favorable conclusion. To do this, we must prepare 

218 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

for whatever level of activity may be required and, being prepared, must 
then proceed to take actions as necessary to achieve our purposes surely and 
promptly. ^0 

The Joint Chiefs urged the President to end "self-imposed restrictions," to go 
beyond planning to the implementation of covert 34A operations against the 
North and Laos, and in addition to "conduct aerial bombing of key North Viet- 
nam targets." 

It was not only the military who drew such open-ended conclusions from the 
apparently "limited" wording of NSAM 273. As a State Department official told 
one Congressional committee in February 1964, "the basic policy is set that we 
are going to stay in Vietnam in a support function as long as needed to win the 
war." ^1 McNamara himself told another committee that the United States had a 
commitment to win, rather than "support": 

The survival of an independent government in South Vietnam is so important 
. . . that I can conceive of no alternative other than to take all necessary 
measures within our capability to prevent a Communist victory.^^ 

All of this, like the text of NSAM 273 itself, corroborates the first-hand ac- 
count of the November 24 meeting reported some years ago by Tom Wicker. 
According to that account Johnson's commitment, a message to the Saigon gov- 
ernment, was not made lightly or optimistically. The issue was clearly understood, 
if not the ultimate consequences: 

Lodge . . . gave the President his opinion that hard decisions would be 
necessary to save South Vietnam. "Unfortunately, Mr. President," the Am- 
bassador said, "you will have to make them." The new President, as recalled 
by one who was present, scarcely hesitated. "I am not going to lose Viet- 
nam," he said. "I am not going to be the President who saw Southeast Asia 
go the way China went." . . . His instructions to Lodge were firm. The 
Ambassador was to return to Saigon and inform the new government there 
that the new government in Washington intended to stand by previous com- 
mitments and continue its help against the Communists. In effect, he told 
Lodge to assure Big Minh that Saigon "can count on us." That was a pledge. 
. . . All that would follow . . . had been determined in that hour of politi- 
cal decision in the old Executive Office Building, while . . . Oswald gasped 
away his miserable life in Parkland Hospital. ^'"^ 

The new President's decisions to expand the war by bombing and to send U.S. 
troops would come many months later. But he had already satisfied the "military" 
faction's demand for an unambiguous commitment, and ordered their "political" 
opponents to silence. 


The Joint Chiefs of Staff had consistently and persistently advised their civilian 
overseers (e.g., on May 10, 1961 and January 13, 1962) that for what they con- 
strued as the "unalterable objectives" of victory a decision should be made to 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 219 

deploy additional U.S. forces, including combat troops if necessary. They were 
opposed from the outset by the proponents of a more political "counterinsurgency" 
concept, such as Roger Hilsman. But in April 1962 Ambassador Galbraith in 
New Delhi proposed to President Kennedy a different kind of (in his words) 
"political solution." Harriman, he suggested, should tell the Russians 

of our determination not to let the Viet Cong overthrow the present gov- 
ernment. . . . The Soviets should be asked to ascertain whether Hanoi can 
and will call off the Viet Cong activity in return for phased American with- 
drawal, liberalization in the trade relations between the two parts of the 
country and general and non-specific agreement to talk about reunification 
after some period of tranquillity.^-'' 

It is of course highly unusual for ambassadors to report directly to presidents 
outside of "channels." Contrary to usual practice the memorandum did not come 
up through Secretary Rusk's office; the White House later referred the memo- 
randum for the comments of the Secretary of Defense (and the Joint Chiefs), 
but not of the Secretary of State. The very existence of such an unusual memo- 
randum and procedure demonstrates that President Kennedy was personally inter- 
ested in at least keeping his "political" options open. This was the second occasion 
on which Kennedy had used the former Harvard professor as an independent 
"watchdog" to evaluate skeptically the Rusk-McNamara consensus of his own 

j bureaucracy; and there are rumors that Professor Galbraith (who for some un- 
explained reason saw President Johnson on November 23, 1963) continued to 
play this role in late 1963, after his return to Harvard. Another such independent 

I "watchdog" was Kennedy's White House assistant, Michael Forrestal. 

j The response of the Joint Chiefs to Galbraith's "political solution" was pre- 
dictably chilly. They argued that it would constitute "disengagement from what 
is by now a well-known commitment," and recalled that in the published letter of 
December 14, 1961 to Diem, President Kennedy had v^ritten that "we are pre- 
pared to help" against a campaign "supported and directed from outside." In 
their view this language affirmed "support ... to whatever extent may be 
necessary," but their particular exegesis, which Kennedy declined to endorse in 
October 1963, did not become official until Johnson's NSAM 273(1). 

On the contrary, for one reason or another, the Defense Department began in 
mid- 1962 "a formal planning and budgetary process" for precisely what Galbraith 
had contemplated, a "phased withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam." ^'^ Penta- 
gon Paper IV.B.4, which studies this process, ignores the Galbraith memorandum 
entirely; and refers instead to what Leslie Gelb calls "the euphoria and optimism 
of July 1962." Assuredly there were military professions of optimism, in secret 
as well as public documents. These professions of optimism do not, however, 
explain why in 1963 the actual level of U.S. military personnel continued to rise, 
from 9,865 at New Year's^^* (with projected highs at that time of 11,600 in Fiscal 
Year 1963, 12,200 in February 1964, and 12,200 in February 1965) to un- 
anticipated levels of 14,000 in June and 16,500 on October.^i About these troop 
increases, which Diem apparently opposed,^^ Pentagon Papers are silent, 
j By mid- 1963, with the aggravating political crisis in Vietnam, the pressure to 
move ahead with withdrawal plans was increasing. This increased pressure was 
motivated not by military "euphoria" (if indeed it ever had been) but by political 
dissatisfaction. A State Department telegram from Rusk to Lodge on August 29, 
il963, expresses the opinion that U.S. political pressures on Diem would otherwise 

220 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/ Vol. V 

Unless such talk included a real sanction such as a threatened withdrawal of 
our support, it is unlikely that it would be taken seriously by a man who may 
feel that we are inescapably committed to an anti-Communist Vietnam.^^ 

Pentagon Paper IV. B. 4 ignores this telegram as well; yet even it (in marked con- 
trast to Leslie Gelb's "Summary and Analysis" of it) admits that I 

Part of the motivation behind the stress placed on U.S. force withdrawal, 
and particularly the seemingly arbitrary desire to effect the 1,000-man with- 
drawal by the end of 1963, apparently was as a signal to influence both the 
North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese and set the stage for possible ! 
later steps that would help bring the insurgency to an end.^^ 

At the time of Galbraith's proposal for talks about phased U.S. withdrawal 
between Harriman and the Russians, Harriman was Chairman of the American 
delegation to the then deadlocked Geneva Conference on Laos, which very ; 
shortly afterwards reconvened for the rapid conclusion of the 1962 Geneva 
Agreements. Relevant events in that development include a sudden U.S. troop j 
buildup in Thailand in May, the agreement among the three Laotian factions \ 
to form a coalition government on June 1 1 , and Khrushchev's message the next { 
day hailing the coalition agreement as a "pivotal event" in Southeast Asia and |' 
good augury for the solution of "other international problems which now divide !,' 
states and create tension." The signing of the Geneva Accords on July 23 was ': 
accompanied by a partial withdrawal of U.S. troops in Thailand, as well as by \ 
a considerable exacerbation of Thai-U.S. relations, to the extent that Thailand, j 
infuriated by lack of support in its border dispute with Cambodia, declared a ' 
temporary boycott of SEATO.^*'' 

The 1962 Geneva Agreements on Laos were marked by an unusual American 
willingness to "trust" the other side.^^ Chester Cooper confirms that their value 
lay in 

a private deal worked out between the leaders of the American and Soviet j 
delegations — the "Harriman-Pushkin Agreement." In essence the Russians , 
agreed to use their influence on the Pathet Lao, Peking, and Hanoi to assure 
compliance with the terms agreed on at the Conference. In exchange for 
this, the British agreed to assure compliance by the non-Communists.^^ 

He also confirms that, before Harriman and Kennedy could terminate U.S. 
support for the CIA's protege in Laos, Phoumi Nosavan, "some key officials in 
our Mission there . . . had to be replaced," The U.S. Foreign Service List 
shows that the officials recalled from Vientiane in the summer of 1962 include 
both of the resident military attaches and also the CIA Station Chief, Gordon L. 

This purge of right-wing elements in the U.S. Mission failed to prevent im- t 
mediate and conspicuous violation of the Agreements by Thai-based elements of 
the U.S. Air Force through jet overflights of Laos. These same overflights, ac- 
cording to Hilsman, had been prohibited by Kennedy, on Harriman's urging, at j 
a National Security Council meeting. In late October 1963 Pathet Lao Radio be- i 
gan to complain of stepped-up intrusions by U.S. jet aircraft, as well as of a new 1 
military offensive by Phoumi's troops (about which we shall say more later) .''^ j 

According to Kenneth O'Donnell, President Kennedy had himself (like Gal- 
braith) abandoned hopes for a military solution as early as the spring of 1963. 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 111 

O'Donnell allegedly heard from Kennedy then "that he had made up his mind 
that after his re-election he would take the risk of unpopularity and make a 
complete withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam ... in 1965." '^^ 
Whether the President had so unreservedly and so early adopted the Galbraith 
perspective is debatable; there is, however, no questioning that after the Buddhist 
crisis in August the prospect of accelerated or total withdrawal was openly con- 
templated by members of the bureaucracy's "political" faction, including the 
President's brother. 

How profoundly this issue had come to divide "political" and "military" inter- 
preters of Administration policy is indicated by General Krulak's minutes of a 
meeting in the State Department on August 31, 1963: 

Mr. Kattenburg stated ... it was the belief of Ambassador Lodge that, if 
we undertake to live with this repressive regime ... we are going to be 
thrown out of the country in six months. He stated that at this juncture it 
would be better for us to make the decision to get out honorably. . . . 
Secretary Rusk commented that Kattenburg's recital was largely speculative; 
that it would be far better for us to start on the firm basis of two things — 
that we will not pull out of Vietnam until the war is won, and that we will 
not run a coup. Mr. McNamara expressed agreement with this view. Mr. 
Rusk . . . then asked the Vice President if he had any contribution to 
make. The Vice President stated that he agreed with Secretary Rusk's con- 
clusions completely; that he had great reservations himself with respect to 
a coup, particularly so because he had never really seen a genuine alternative 
to Diem. He stated that from both a practical and a political viewpoint, it 
would be a disaster to pull out; that we should stop playing cops and robbers 
and . . . once again go about winning the war.'''^ 

I At this meeting (which the President did not attend) the only opposition to 
; this powerful Rusk-McNamara-Johnson consensus was expressed by two more 
junior State Department officials with OSS and CIA backgrounds: Paul Katten- 
burg (whom Rusk interrupted at one heated point) and Roger Hilsman. One 
week later, however, Robert Kennedy, who was the President's chief trouble- 
shooter in CIA, Vietnam, and counterinsurgency affairs, himself questioned 
Secretary Rusk's "firm basis" and entertained the solution which Johnson had 
called a "disaster": 

The first and fundamental question, he felt, was what we were doing in 
Vietnam. As he understood it, we were there to help the people resisting a 
Communist take-over. The first question was whether a Communist take- 
over could be successfully resisted with any government. If it could not, 
now was the time to get out of Vietnam entirely, rather than waiting. If the 
answer was that it could, but not with a Diem-Nhu government as it was 
now constituted, we owed it to the people resisting Communism in Vietnam 
to give Lodge enough sanctions to bring changes that would permit success- 
ful resistance.'''^ 

One way or another, in other words, withdrawal was the key to a "political" 

These reports show Robert Kennedy virtually isolated (save for the support 
bf middle-echelon State officials like Hilsman and Kattenburg) against a strong 
pusk-McNamara bureaucratic consensus (supported by Lyndon Johnson). Yet 



222 Gravel Edition/The PentagQH Papers /Vol. V 

in October and November both points of Mr. Rusk's "firm basis" were under- | 

mined by the White House: unconditional plans for an initial troop withdrawal | 

were announced on November 20; and the United States, by carefully meditated i 
personnel changes and selective aid cuts, gave signals to dissident generals in 
Saigon that it would tolerate a coup. The first clear signal was the unusually 

publicized removal on October 5 of the CIA station chief in Saigon, John i 
Richardson, because of his close identification with Diem's brother Ngo dinh 

Nhu. And, as Leslie Gelb notes, "In October we cut off aid to Diem in a direct ; 

rebuff, giving a green light to the generals. "^^ j 

But this brief political trend, publicly announced as late as November 20, was \ 

checked and reversed by the new President at his first substantive policy meeting ; 

on November 24. As he himself reports, [ 


I told Lodge and the others that I had serious misgivings. . . . Congres- j 
sional demands for our withdrawal from Vietnam were becoming louder || 
and more insistent. I thought we had been mistaken in our failure to support j 
Diem. ... I told Lodge that I had not been happy with what I read about ? 
our Mission's operations in Vietnam earlier in the year. There had been i 
too much internal dissension. I wanted him to develop a strong team. • . . jj 
In the next few months we sent Lodge a new deputy, a new CIA chief, a j 
new director of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) operations, and re- !; 
placements for other key posts in the U.S. Embassy."^^ I 

In other words, Richardson's replacement (presumably Frederick W. Flott) was ^• 
himself replaced (by Peer de Silva, an Army Intelligence veteran). Others who i 
were purged included the number two Embassy of^cial, William Trueheart, a i 
former State intelligence officer, and John W. Mecklin, the USIA director: both ' 
Trueheart and Mecklin were prominent, along with Kattenburg and Hilsman, in , 
the "get Diem" faction. This purge of the Embassy was accompanied by the i 
replacement, on January 7, 1964, of Paul Kattenburg as Chairman of the Vietnam 
Inter-Department Working Group, and soon after by the resignation of Roger 
Hilsman. '^^ The State Department's Foreign Service List failed to reflect the ; 
rapidity with which this secret purge was affected.'''^ 

Above all NSAM 273 sent a new signal to the confused Saigon generals, to < 
replace the "political" signals of October and November. For the first time (as 
we shall see) they were told to go ahead with a "graduated" or escalating pro- ' 
gram of clandestine military operations against North Vietnam. "^^ On January 16 ' 
these 34A Operations were authorized to begin on February 1. In Saigon as in 
Washington, a brief interlude of government by politically minded moderates 
gave way to a new "military" phase. On January 30, Nguyen Khanh ousted the ' 
Saigon junta headed by Duong van Minh, on the grounds that some of its mem- \ 
bers were "paving the way for neutralism and thus selling out the country." I 
According to the Pentagon Papers Khanh notified his American adviser. Col. \ 
Jasper Wilson, of the forthcoming coup; but in a recent interview Khanh has j 
claimed Wilson told him of the American-organized coup less than twenty-four ; 
hours in advance. | 

Lyndon Johnson, like other observers, discounts the novelty of NSAM 273, J 
by referring back to President Kennedy's firm statements in two TV interviews 
of early September. In one of these Kennedy had said, "I don't agree with those 
who say we should withdraw." In the other, he had argued against any cut in 
U.S. aid to South Vietnam: "I don't think we think that would be helpful at 
this time. . . . You might have a situation which could bring about a col- 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 223 

lapse." From these two statements Ralph Stavins has also concluded that 
"had John F. Kennedy lived, he would not have pulled out of Southeast Asia 
and would have taken any steps necessary to avoid an ignominious defeat at the 
hands of the Viet Cong.^^ 

But Kennedy had clearly shifted between early September 1963 (when he 
had pulled back from encouraging a reluctant Saigon coup) and late November 
(after he had given the signals for one). The TV interviews soon proved to be 
poor indicators of his future policy: by mid-October Kennedy was making sig- 
nificant aid cuts, as requested by dissident generals in Saigon, in order to weaken 
Diem's position, and above all to remove from Saigon the CIA-trained Special 
Forces which Diem and Nhu relied on as a private guard. And on October 2 
the White House statement had announced that 

Secretary McNamara and General Taylor reported their judgment that the 
major part of the U.S. military task can be completed by the end of 1965, 
though there may be a continuing requirement for a limited number of 
U.S. training personnel. They reported that by the end of this year, the U.S. 
program for training Vietnamese should have progressed to the point where 
1,000 U.S. military personnel assigned to South Viet-Nam can be with- 

This language constituted a personal "judgment" rather than an authorized 
"plan" (or, as Mr. Gelb calls it, a "public . . . promise"). The distinction was 
recognized by the secret McNamara-Taylor memorandum of October 2 which 
proposed it. McNamara and Taylor, moreover, recommended an announcement 
as "consistent" with a program whose inspiration was explicitly political: 

an application of selective short-term pressures, principally economic, and 
the conditioning of long-term aid on the satisfactory performance by the 
Diem government in meeting military and political objectives which in the 
aggregate equate to the requirements of final victory. 

The memo called for the Defense Department "to announce in the very near 
future presently prepared plans [as opposed to intentions] to withdraw 1,000 U.S. 
military personnel" (p. 555). This recommendation was approved by the 
President on October 5, and incorporated in NSAM 263 of October 11, but 
with the proviso that "no formal announcement be made of the implementation 
of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963." 

Instead the President began to leak the NSAM 263 plans informally. In his 
press conference of October 31, on the eve of the coup against Diem, the Presi- 
dent answered an informed question about "any speedup in the withdrawal from 
Vietnam" by speculating that "the first contingent would be 250 men who are 
not involved in what might be called front-line operations." ^9 A fortnight later 
he was more specific, in the context of a clearly political formulation of U.S. 
policy objectives: 

That is our object, to bring Americans home, permit the South Vietnamese 
to maintain themselves as a free and independent country, and permit demo- 
cratic forces within the country to operate. . . . We are going to bring back 
several hundred before the end of the year. But on the question of the exact 
number, I thought we would wait until the meeting of November 20\h.^^ 

224 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/ Vol V 

The November 20 meeting was an extraordinary all-agency Honolulu Con- 
ference of some 45 to 60 senior Administration officials, called in response to 
the President's demand for a "full-scale review" of U.S. policy in Southeast Asia, 
following the overthrow of Diem.^i This all-agency Conference, like the follow-up 
"Special Meeting" of June 1964, is apparently to be distinguished from the 
regular SecDef Honolulu Conferences, such as the Seventh in May 1963 and the j 
Eighth in March 1964.^^ It was extraordinary in its size and high-level participa- \ 
tion (McNamara, Rusk, McCone, McGeorge Bundy, Lodge, Taylor, Harkins), 
yet Robert Kennedy, the President's Vietnam trouble-shooter, did not attend: on ! 
November 20 he celebrated his birthday at home in Washington. (The only j 
Cabinet members left in Washington were Attorney General Robert Kennedy, j 
HEW Secretary Celebrezze, and the new Postmaster General John Gronouski. \ 
Because of a coincident Cabinet trip to Japan, Dillon of Treasury, Hodges of j 
Commerce, Wirtz of Labor, Freeman of Agriculture, and Udall of the Interior | 
were also in Honolulu during this period. )^'^ | 

As the President's questioner of October 31 was apparently aware, the issue '! 
was no longer whether 1,000 men would be withdrawn (with a Military As- 
sistance Program reduction in Fiscal 1965 of $27 million), but whether the ' 
withdrawal program might not be accelerated by six months, with a correspond- \ 
ing MAP aid reduction of $33 million in Fiscal 1965.^^ Planning for this second j 
"Accelerated Plan" had been stepped up after the October 5 decision which j 
authorized the first. ^^^^ The issue was an urgent one, since the Fiscal 1965 budget | 
would have to be presented to Congress in January, i; 

The chronology of Pentagon Paper IV. B. 4, on Phased Withdrawal of U.S. I 
Forces, tells us that on November 20, two days before the assassination, the j 
Honolulu Conference secretly "agreed that the Accelerated Plan (speed-up of ; 
force withdrawal by six months directed by McNamara in October) should be ! 
maintained." In addition the Honolulu Conference issued a press release ! 
which, according to the New York Times, "reaffirmed the United States plan i 
to bring home about 1,000 of its 16,500 troops from South Vietnam by Jan- 
uary 1."^^ Thus the language of NSAM 273 of November 26, by going back i 
to the status quo ante October 5, was itself misleading, as is the careful selection ! 
from it in the Pentagon Study. By reverting to the informal "objective" of Octo- ! 
ber 2, NSAM 273(2) tacitly effaced both the formalized plans of NSAM 263 
(October 5 and 11) announced on November 20, and also the Accelerated Plan 
discussed and apparently agreed to on the same day. NSAM 273(6), according 
to most citations of it, would have explicitly "maintained both military and 
economic programs ... at levels as high as those ... of the Diem regime." ^® 

Most volumes of the Pentagon Papers attribute the letter and spirit of NSAM 
273 to a misplaced military "optimism." But President Johnson's memoirs con- ' 
firm the spirit of urgency and "serious misgivings" which others have attributed 
to the unscheduled Sunday meeting which approved it.i^^ President Kennedy ; 
had envisaged no formal meetings on that Sunday: instead he would have met 
Lodge privately for lunch at his private Virginia estate (or, according to William | 
Manchester at Camp David). But President Johnson, while still in Dallas on j 
November 22, "felt a national security meeting was essential at the earliest pos- \ 
sible moment"; and arranged to have it set up "for that same evening." j 

Johnson, it is true, tells us that his "first exposure to the details of the problem ; 
of Vietnam came forty-eight hours after I had taken the oath of office," i.e., i 
on Sunday, November 24. But Pentagon Study IV.B.4 and the New York Times 
make it clear that on Saturday morning, for fifty minutes, the President and 
McNamara discussed a memorandum of some four or five typewritten pages: 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 225 

In that memo, Mr. McNamara said that the new South Vietnamese gov- 
ernment was confronted by serious financial problems, and that the U.S. 
must be prepared to raise planned MAP levels. 

The Chronology adds to this information the statement that "funding well above 
current MAP plans was envisaged." 

The true significance of the symbolic 1,000-man withdrawal was as a political 
signal; and politics explains why NSAM 263 was overridden. As we have seen, 
another Pentagon study admits that 

The seemingly arbitrary desire to effect the 1,000-man reduction by the 
end of 1963, apparently was as a signal to influence both the North Viet- 
namese and the South Vietnamese and set the stage for possible later steps 
that would help bring the insurgency to an end.^^^^ 

Different officials no doubt had different "possible later steps" in mind. But, as 
the Kennedy Administration must have known in early October, the August 29 
proposal by de Gaulle for the reunification and neutralization of Vietnam could 
only have been strengthened by this signal. ^^"^ Precisely the same thinking, as 
we have seen, dictated the policy reversal of November 24: U.S. programs would 
be maintained at at least their old levels, "so that the new GVN would not be 
tempted to regard the U.S. as seeking to disengage." 

NSAM 263 of October 11, which approved Kennedy's ill-fated withdrawal 
plan, formalized a presidential decision of October 5, sandwiched between the 
return of his Paris Ambassador, Charles Bohlen, on October 3, and the arrival 
in Washington on October 5 of French Foreign Minister Maurice Couve de 
Murville.109 On October 7 Couve de Murville, after seeing the President, sent 
up another signal by his announcement (later confirmed by Arthur Schlesinger) 
that a visit to Washington by General de Gaulle was planned for "some time" 
(i.e., February) in 1964.^i« 

The month of November 1963 saw significant signals from the other side of 
renewed interest in a "political solution," signals which appalled Rusk and other 
members of the State Department: 

The situation since the November coup had been further complicated by 
new proposals for a negotiated settlement involving the reunification of all 
of Vietnam, as envisaged in the 1954 agreements, and its neutralization on 
something like the Laotian pattern. The Ho Chi Minh regime . . . gave 
indications of renewed interest in a "political" solution of much the same 
character that General de Gaulle had suggested. m 

The Pentagon Papers note tersely in one chronology that in November 1963 
"FRANCE proposed talks leading towards the establishment of a neutral, inde- 
pendent South Vietnam." y Thant also presented Washington with proposals 
for a neutralist coalition government that would have included some of the 
pro-French Vietnamese exiles living in Paris. i^*^ The clandestine radio of the 
National Liberation Front, broadcasting in South Vietnam, began in November 
a series of appeals for negotiations aimed not only at the Vietnamese people but 
also at members of the new military junta that succeeded Diem.^i^ 

It is true that Rusk (like Johnson and others in the Administration) was 
bitterly opposed to disengagement and said so both privately and publicly. 
,flut it is clear that through the last month of the Diem crisis (i.e., October) the 

226 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon, Papers/ Vol. V j 

White House communicated more and more with Lodge directly via the CIA 
network, rather than through Rusk and regular State Department channels. It 
is also known that, in this same period, Kennedy authorized exploratory talks 
with Cuban representatives, in which his envoy, Ambassador William Atwood, i 
was instructed to report to the White House directly, rather than through the | 
State Department. 

Assessed in military terms, the matter of a 1,000-man troop withdrawal was 
not important, and one can speak loosely of a continuity between the bureaucratic j 
policies of the Defense and State Departments (or of McNamara and Rusk) \ 
before and after the assassination. But in the steps taken by Kennedy, par- 
ticularly after Diem's death, to implement and announce a withdrawal, the 
President was indeed giving signals of his own dissatisfaction with the existing 
policies of his own bureaucracy, and his willingness to entertain a new alterna- 

It is possible that the secret approval on November 20 of the Accelerated 
Troop Withdrawal Plan should be seen as flowing not from either military or 
diplomatic opportunity, so much as from financial necessity. The President was 
under double pressure to reduce government expenditure in general and the 
balance of payments deficit in particular. To strengthen both the domestic econ- 
omy and his own political prospects he had already decided on a tax cut in 1964; 
in September as a consequence he had ordered "a policy of severe restraint" in I 
the next budget, for fear of a huge $12 to $15 billion deficit-^^^ With respect to , 
foreign aid in particular. Congress was even more economy-minded than the 
President, slashing his $4.5 billion request for Fiscal Year 1964 by almost $1 

But if the tax cut and projected budget deficit were not further to threaten i 
the stability of the dollar in the international monetary system, it was particularly i 
urgent that the President take steps to improve the U.S. balance of payments, and \ 
reduce the increasing outflow of gold. In early 1963 many U.S. government de- 
partments were ordered to balance their overseas expenditures against earnings ,i 
(through so-called "gold dollar budgets" Stringent measures taken by the ; 
Pentagon to curb overseas spending by U.S. army personnel and their dependents i 
made it clear this was a significant factor in the balance of payments problem ' 
and gold outflow. 

Partly to reduce this factor, the Pentagon proceeded with its much-publicized 
program to develop mobile task forces based in the United States. In October, on 
the eve of Operation "Big Lift," an unprecedented airlift of such mobile forces i 
from America to Germany, Roswell Gilpatric predicted in a major policy speech ; 
that the time was near when the "United States should be able to make useful , 
reductions in its heavy overseas military expenditures." As the Times noted, his 
"diplomatically phrased comments on reducing overseas forces" were approved , 
by the White House. 121 

In this way the issue of U.S. overseas troop levels was, for both budgetary and 
monetary reasons, closely linked to the overall Kennedy strategy for movement , 
towards international relaxation of the cold war and conversion to a full-employ- ' 
ment civilian economy at home. On both scores the Kennedy Administration i 
claimed progress in the second part of 1963, progress attested to by the increasing 1 
concern of spokesmen for the defense-aerospace industries. The signing of the 
U.S.-Soviet test-ban treaty on August 5 in Moscow, while a Soviet band played , 
Gershwin's "Love Walked In," had been followed by a series of hints in both I 
capitals of U.S.-Soviet cooperation, in the fields of space, civilian air travel, and 
arms limitation. In November 1963 Roswell Gilpatric announced a "major gov- 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 111 

ernment-industry planning effort" for possible transition from defense to civilian 
spending,^ 22 while McNamara himself, in the week leading up to the assassina- 
tion, hinted at a U.S.-Soviet strategic parity, "perhaps even at a lower level than 
today." Business Week, in its last pre-assassination issue, saw no ambiguity 
in this delicate language: "The word came loud and clear this week from De- 
fense Secretary Robert S. McNamara: A major cut in defense spending is in the 

This prediction, of course, proved false: the projected "major cut" never 
came, and a chief reason for this was the Vietnam war. I am not at all trying to 
suggest here that the new Johnson Administration moved consciously and at 
once to arrest the projected "civilianization" of the U.S. budget and economy. 
In fact the overall budget levels of the Fiscal '65 budget, initiated by Kennedy 
and presented by Johnson in January 1964, did show token reductions in spend- 
ing overair,~ln defense, and even in defense research and development. It is 
said that, as late as the beginning of 1965, "aerospace companies were fully pre- 
pared for a decline in business," until the sudden "steep escalation of the Vietnam 

Yet it is striking that the new Johnson Administration, while sHghtly reducing 
its overall defense procurement program (through a fall-off in the nearly com- 
pleted missile procurement program) did move rapidly and significantly to in- 
crease its procurements of aircraft (the aircraft used, when finally delivered, in 
the Vietnam air war).i26 it is true that the 1963-1964 Kennedy budget had 
put forward $6.4 billion for aircraft procurement, but in fact the Kennedy Ad- 
ministration made commitments from July to November at an annual rate of 
only $5 billion, while the Johnson Administration finished the fiscal year with a 
whopping cumulative total of $6.8 billion in new obligations. This was the highest 
aircraft procurement total in five years. 

The huge commitment of $1.1 billion for new aircraft procurement in Feb- 
ruary 1964 (as opposed to $368 million in November 1963), can and indeed 
must be directly related to the JCS proposals in that month for the bombing of 
North Vietnam. These proposals, as we have seen, were put forward on the 
authority of NSAM 273 of November 26, 1963. Thus the budgetary and strategic 
implications of abandoning the November 20 decision (for an Accelerated With- 
drawal Program) were far greater and more immediate than is indicated by 
the external budgetary outlines of overall defense spending. 

It is clear that the Accelerated Withdrawal Program was abandoned three or 
four days after its approval on November 20, for it entailed the kind of reduc- 
tion in support which NSAM 273 prohibited. In addition it would appear that 
the new Johnson Administration even cancelled the published decision for a 
1,000-man troop withdrawal in late 1963. I myself believe-that there was never 
any such withdrawal, or anything like it. Mr. Gelb's summary of Pentagon Study 
IV.B.4 states categorically that "the U.S. did effect a 1,000 man withdrawal in 
December of 1963"; but the study itself calls this an "accounting exercise" that 
"did not even represent a decline of 1,000 from the October peak of 16,732." 127 
Its Chronology adds that "Although 1,000 men were technically withdrawn, no 
actual reduction of U.S. strength was achieved." ^28 

Another study states that on January 1, 1964, there were only 15,914 U.S. 
military personnel in Vietnam ;i -'9 and this figure, if true, might represent an 
appreciable decline from the October high of 16,500 (up from 14,000 in 
June). But this year-end figure has already been revised downwards too many 
^ times in recent years for any Pentagon estimate to have much credibility. In 
1966, for example, the Pentagon told one Congressional Committee that the 

228 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Tapers/ Vol. V 

1963 year-end figure was 16,575 (which if true would represent an actual in- 
crease of 75 men);^'^i and in 1968 it told another Committee that the figure 
was 16,263 (a reduction of 237 ) J It seems possible that the only significant 
reduction was that of from 220 to 300 men on December 3, which had been 
publicly forecast by the President on October 31, and confirmed by the Novem- 
ber 20 Honolulu press release. (This withdrawal, unlike the more drastic pro- 
posals, did not appear to entail any lowering of the MAP levels, and thus might 
be compatible with NSAM 273.) 


All of this suggests that the Pentagon Studies misrepresent NSAM 273 
systematically. Although it is of course possible that NSAM 273 had already 
been censored before it was submitted to some or all of the authors of the 
Pentagon Papers, it is striking that different studies use different fragments of 
evidence to arrive (by incompatible narratives) at the same false picture of 
continuity between November 20 and 24. One study (IV.B.3, p. 37) suggests 
' that these wgre ''no new programs" proposed either at the Honolulu Conference 
or in NSAM 273, because of the "cautious optimism" on both occasions. Another 
(IV.C.2.a, pp. 1-2) speaks of a "different . . . new course of action" in early 
1964 — the 34A covert operations — that flowed from a decision "made" at the 
Honolulu Conference under Kennedy and ratified on November 26 under 

The covert program was spawned in May of 1963, when the JCS directed 
CINCPAC to prepare a plan for GVN "hit and run" operations against 
NVN. These operations were to be "non-attributable" and carried out "with 
U.S. military material, training and advisory assistance." 4/ Approved by 
the JCS on 9_September as CINCPAC OPLAN 34-63, the plan was dis- 
cussed during the Vietnam policy conference at Honolulu, 20 November 
1963. Here a decision was made to develop a combined COMUSMACV- 
CAS, Saigon plan for a 12-month program of covert operations. Instructions 
forwarded by the JCS on 26 November specifically requested provision for: 
"(1) harassment; (2) diversion; (3) political pressure; (4) capture of 
prisoners; (5) physical destruction; (6) acquisition of intelligence; (7) 
> generation of intelligence; and (8) diversion of DRV resources." Further, 
that the plan provide for "selected actions of graduated scope and intensity 
to include commando type coastal raids." 5/ To this guidance was added 
that given by President Johnson to the effect that "planning should include 
. . . estimates of such factors as: (1) resulting damage to NVN; (2) the 
plausibility of denial; (3) possible NVN retaliation; and (4) other inter- 
national reaction." 6/ The MACV-CAS plan, designated OPLAN 34A, and 
providing for "a spectrum of capabilities for RVNAF to execute against 
NVN," was forwarded by CINCPAC on 19 December 1963. 7/ The idea 
of putting direct pressure on North Vietnam met prompt receptivity on the 
part of President Johnson. 

The density of misrepresentations in this study, and especially this paragraph, 
suggest conscious deception rather than naive error. The footnotes have unfor- 
tunately been suppressed, so we do not have the citation for the alleged directive 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 229 

of May 1963. The chronology summarizing this Study gives a clue, however, for 
it reads "11 May 63# NSAM 52# Authorized CIA-sponsored operations against 
NVN." But the true date of NSAM 52, as the author must have known, was 
May 11, 1961; and indeed he makes a point of contrasting the sporadic CIA 
operations, authorized in 1961 and largely suspended in 1962, with the 34A 
"elaborate program" of sustained pressures, under a military command, in three 
planned "graduated" or escalating phases, which began in February 1964. 

The inclusion in planning of MACV was in keeping with the Kennedy doc- 
trine, enacted after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, that responsibility for "any large 
paramilitary operation wholly or partly covert ... is properly the primary j 
responsibility of the Department of Defense." ^"^^ Before November 26, 1963, 
U.S. covert operations in Asia had always (at least in theory) been "secret" 
and "plausibly deniable"; these were the two criteria set for itself in 1948 by 
the National Security Council when it first authorized CIA covert operations 
under its "other functions and duties" clause in the 1947 National Security 
Act. Throughout 1963 the Kennedy Administration was under considerable 
pressure, public as well as within its personnel, to go beyond these guidelines, 
and intervene "frankly" rather than "surreptitiously." In May 1963 this appeal 
for escalation was publicly joined by William Henderson, an official of Socony 
Mobil which had a major economic interest in Southeast Asia, to an appeal to ' 
move from a "limited" to an "unlimited" commitment in that area.^^"^^ 

The covert operations planning authorized by NSAM 273 seems to have been 
the threshold for at least the first of these policy changes, if not both. In contrast 
both were wholly incompatible with the Kennedy Administration's last move- 
ments toward withdrawal. In May 1963 McNamara had authorized changes in 
long-range planning "to accomplish a more rapid withdrawal" ^^"^ and on 
November 20 in Honolulu, as we have seen, the resulting initial withdrawal of 
1,000 men was supplemented by the so-called Accelerated Plan.^-^^ It is hard 
to imagine, at either date, the same man or men contemplating a new 34A 
"elaborate program" of acts which threatened war, to coincide with an accelerated 
withdrawal of U.S. forces. ^ 

The next sentence of Study IV.C.2.a tells us that CINCPAC OPLAN 34-63 
was "approved by the JCS on 9 September" — this "approval" means only that, 
at the very height of the paralytic stand-off between the "political" and "military" 
factions, the Joint Chiefs forwarded one more tendentious "military" alternative 
for consideration by McNamara and above all by the 303 Committee (about 
whom the author is silent). One Gravel Pentagon Papers Chronology (111:141) 
suggests that Kennedy and his White House staff never were consulted by Mc- 
Namara about OPLAN 34-63. 

The same Gravel chronology reports that CJ[A_jcross-bor^ operations, rad- 
ically curtailed after the 1962 Geneva Agreements on Laos, were resumed by 
November 19, 1963, one day before the Honolulu Conference, even though the 
first Presidential authorization cited for such renewed operations is Johnson's 
NSAM 273 of November 26.^'^^ Kennedy's NSAM 249 of June 25, 1963, in 
rejecting State's proposals for actions against North Vietnam, had authorized 
planning for operations against Laos conditional on further consultation; and 
it had urged review whether "additional U.S. actions should be taken in Laos 
before any action be directed against North Vietnam." 

Although the overall language of NSAM 249 (which refers to an unpublished 
memorandum) is obscure, this wording seems to indicate that in June 1963 ) 
Kennedy had delayed authorization of any action against North Vietnam. Yet { 
North Vietnamese and right-wing U.S. sources agree that in this very month of 

230 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers /Vol. V 

' June 1963 covert operations against North Vietnam were resumed by South 
I Vietnamese commandoes; these actions had the approval of General Harkins 
I in Saigon, but not (according to the_ U.S. sources) of President Kennedy. 
The same sources, further corroborated by the Pentagon Papers, both linked 
these raids to increased military operation between South Vietnam and the 
Chinese Nationalists, whose own commandoes began turning up in North Viet- 
' nam in increasing numbers. ^"^^ 

It has also been suggested that KMT influences, and their sympathizers in 
Thailand and the CIA, were behind^ the right-wing political assassinations and 
military offensive which in 1963 led to a resumption of fighting in Laos, "with 
new American supplies and full U.S. political support." This autumn 1963 
military offensive in Laos coincided with escalation of activities against Prince 
Sihanouk in Cambodia by the CIA-supported Khmer Serei in South Vietnam. 
After two infiltrating Khmer Serei agents had been captured and had publicly 
confessed, Cambodia on November 19 severed all military and economic ties 
with the United States, and one month later broke off diplomatic relations. 

All of these disturbing events suggest that, in late 1963, covert operations 
were beginning to escape the political limitations, both internal and international 
(e.g., the Harriman-Pushkin agreement), established during the course of the 
Kennedy Administration. During the months of September and October many 
established newspapers, including the New York Times, began to complain about 
the CIA's arrogation of power; and this concern was echoed in Congress by 
Senator Mansfield. The evidence now published in the Pentagon Papers, in- 
cluding Kennedy's NSAM 249 of June and the Gravel chronology's testimony to 
the resumption of crossborder operations, also suggests that covert operations 
may have been escalated in defiance of the President's, secret .directives. 

If this chronology is correct, then Pentagon Study IV.C.2.a's efforts to show 
continuity between the Kennedy and Johnson regimes suggest instead that 
President Kennedy had lost control of covert planning and operations. OPLAN 
34-63, which "apparently . . . was not forwarded to the White House" 

was discussed during the Vietnam policy conference at Honolulu, 20 Novem- 
ber 1963. Here a decision was made to develop a combined COMUSMACV- 
CAS, Saigon plan for a 12-month program of covert operations. 

That NSAM 273 's innovations were hatched at Honolulu is suggested also by 
the Honolulu press communique, which, anticipating NSAM 273(1), spoke of 
"an encouraging outlook for the principal objective of joint U.S.-Vietnamese 
policy in South Vietnam." In Pentagon Study IV.B.4, this anticipatory quotation 
is completed by language reminiscent of Kennedy's in early 1961 " — the success- 
ful prosecution of the war against the Viet Cong communists." ^'^'^ But at the 
Honolulu press conference the same key phrase was pointedly (and presciently) 
^ ' . ( glossed by Defense and State spokesmen Arthur Sylvester and Robert C. Man- 
JU>-^"^ nm^, in language which Kennedy had never used or authorized, to mean "the 
successful promotion of the war against the North Vietnam Communists." 

Study IV.C.2.a's implication that the escalation planning decision was made 
officially by the Honolulu Conference (rather than at it without, Kennedy's ajj- 
thorization) is hard to reconcile with the other Studies' references to the Con- 
ference's "optimism" and projections of withdrawal. The author gives no foot- 
note for these and crucial sentences; and in contrast to his own Chronology he 
does not even mention NSAM 273. His next citation is to the JCS directive on 
November 26 (which, we learn from his own Chronology and Stavins, repeats 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 231 

that of NSAM 273 itself) i^^^ but this citation clearly begs the question of what 
official decision, if any, was reached on November 20. What is left of interest 
in the author's paragraph is the speedy authorization by the infant Johnson 
Administration, and the personal guidance added to the new JCS directives by 
the new President himself. 

NSAM 273, it seems clear, was an important document in the history of the 
1964 escalations, as well as in the reversal of President Kennedy's late and ill- 
fated program of "Vietnamization" by 1965. The systematic censorship and., 
distortion of NSAM 273 in 1963 and again in 1971, by the Pentagon study and ( 
later by the New York Times, raises serious questions about the bona fides of ' 
the Pentagon study and of its release. It also suggests that the Kennedy assassina- 
tion was itself an important, perhaps a crucial, event in the history of the Indo- 
china war. 

Assuredly there is much truth to be learned from the Pentagon Papers. Never- 
theless their preparation, if not the drama of their release, represents one more 
manipulation of "intelligence" in order to influence public policy. Someone is 
being carefully protected by the censorship of NSAM 273, and by the conceal- 
ment of the way in which the assassination of President Kennedy affected the 
escalation of the Indochina War. It is almost certain that McCone, perhaps the 
leading hawk in the Kennedy entourage, played a role in this secret policy 

Elsewhere in the Times version of the Pentagon Papers one finds the intelli- 
gence community, and the CIA in particular, depicted as a group of lonely men 
who challenged the bureaucratic beliefs of their time, but whose percipient warn- 
ings were not listened to. In June 1964, we are told, the CIA "challenged the 
domino theory, widely believed in one form or another within the Administra- 
tion," but the President unfortunately was "not inclined to adjust policy along 
the lines of this analysis challenging the domino theory." late 1964 the 

"intelligence community," with George Ball and almost no one else, " 'tended to- 
ward a pessimistic view' of the effect of bombing on the Hanoi leaders. ... As 
in the case of earlier intelligence findings that contradicted policy intentions, the 
study indicates no effort on the part of the President or his most trusted advisers 
to reshape their policy along the lines of this analysis." 

In part, no doubt, this is true; just as the intelligence community did include 
within it some of the administration's more cautious and objective advisers. But 
once again the impression created by such partial truth is wholly misleading, for 
throughout this period McCone used his authority as CIA Director to recom- 
mend a sharp escalation of the war. In March 1964 he recommended "that 
North Vietnam be bombed immediately and that the Nationalist Chinese Army 
be invited to enter the war." ^ yg^r later he criticized McNamara's draft 
guidelines for the war by saying we must hit North Vietnam "harder, more 
frequently, and inflict greater damage." Meanwhile, at the very time that 
some intelligence personnel discreetly revived the possibility of a Vietnam dis- 
engagement, other intelligence operations personnel proceeded with the planning 
which led to the Tonkin Gulf incidents. 

As presented by the New York Times, the Pentagon Papers suggested that 
the Indochina war was the result of a series of mistakes. According to this model, 
the war was to be analyzed as a sequence of official decisions reached by public 
officials through constitutional procedures, and these officials (now almost all 
departed from office) erred in their determination of the national interest. The 
Times Pentagon Papers suggested further that good intelligence was in fact 
available at the time, but was unfortunately ignored in a sequence of bad de- 

232 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 

cisions. One is invited to conclude that the intelHgence community should have 
greater influence in the future. 

In my researches of the past six years I have reached almost precisely the 
) opposite conclusion. The public apparatus of government, with respect to Indo- 
china, has been manipulated for the furtherance of private advantage, whether 
bureaucratic, financial, or both simultaneously. The policies which led to escala- 
tion after escalation, though disastrous when evaluated publicly, served very well 
the private purposes of the individuals and institutions that consciously pursued 
them. And the collective influence of the so-called "intelligence community" 
(no community in fact, but a cockpit of competing and overlapping cabals) has 
been not to oppose these disasters, but to make them possible. 

This is not a blanket accusation against all intelligence personnel, least of all 
against the relatively enlightened professionals of the CIA. It is a blanket chal- 
lenge to the system of secret powers which permits the manipulation of intelli- 
gence, and the staging of so-called "political scenarios" in other nations, with 
impunity and without public control. This country's constitution will be still 
further weakened if, as after the Bay of Pigs, the exposure of an intelligence 
"fiasco" becomes the prelude for a further rationalization and reinforcement of 
a secret intelligence apparatus. 

I In the evolution of the Indochina war, the impact of the intelligence com- 
munity has not been represented by the neglected memoranda of cautious and 
scholarly analysts. The power and influence of these agencies has lain in the 

[convergence of intelligence and covert operations, and even more in the proximi- 
ties of the agencies and their "proprietaries" (like Air America) to ultimate 

[centers of private power such as the firms of Wall Street and the fortunes of 

'the Brook Club. If the American public is to gain control of its own government, 
then it must expose, and hopefully repeal, those secret sanctions by which these 
ostensibly public agencies can engage us in private wars. 

After the Bay of Pigs, Congress allowed the executive to clean its own house. 
This time it must struggle to recover its lost control of the power to make war. 
It is obvious that at present the majority of Congressmen are not so inclined. 
There may, however, be some who will exercise their investigatory powers to 
pursue, expose, and ultimately end the full story of the war conspiracy. 
And if not, then, in the name of peace, others must do it for them. 


1. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Government Operations, Fraud and Cor- 
ruption in Management of Military Club Systems, Hearings, 92nd Cong. 1st Sess. (8 
October 1969), pp. 275-279. Capital for the supply and kickback operations of Sgt. 
William Higdon and Sgt. Major William Woolridge, the Army's senior noncommis- 
sioned officer, came "from Deak & Co. ... in Hong Kong . . . through an individual 
name[d] Frank Furci." Frank's father, Dominic Furci, was a lieutenant in the Florida 
Mafia family of Santos Trafficante, allegedly a major narcotics trafficker. Trafficante 
and Dominic Furci visited Frank Furci in Hong Kong in 1968 (p. 279; cf. U.S., Con- 
gress, Senate, Committee on Government Operations, Organized Crime and Illicit 
Traffic in Narcotics, Hearings, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., Washington: G.P.O., 1964, pp. 
522-523, 928). 

2. Nyr, 7 April 1971, pp. 1, 15. 

3. Ralph Stavins, "Kennedy's Private War," New York Review of Books, 22 July 
1971, p. 26; cp. Ralph Stavins et al., Washington Plans an Aggressive War (New York: 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 233 

Vintage, 1971), p. 60. While Mr. Stavins' account is useful, he is wrong in asserting 
that the "303 Committee . . . came into being as a direct consequence of the egregi- 
ous blundering at the Bay of Pigs." In fact this committee of deputy secretaries, known 
earlier as the "54-12 Committee," had been established in December 1954; Kennedy's 
innovation was to bureaucratize and expand its activities, particularly by establishing 
a Special Group (Counter-Insurgency) to insure the development of programs for it 
(NSAM 124, 18 January 1962; cf. Harry Howe Ransom, The Intelligence Establish- 
ment, Cambridge, Mass., 1970, p. 89). 

4. U.S. Government edition, IV.C.2.a, p. 20; Gravel edition, 111:165. Cf. NYT, 
May 18, 1964, p. 1; Arthur J. Dommen, Conflict in Laos (New York: Praeger, 1964), 
p. 256. The USG ed. claims that on May 21 "the United States obtained Souvanna 
Phouma's permission to conduct low-level reconnaissance operations," but this "per- 
mission" was apparently deduced from a general request for assistance. Souvanna 
Phouma's first known response to the question of reconnaissance flights in particular 
was to request their discontinuance (NYT, June 11, 1964, p. 1; Peter Dale Scott, 
The War Conspiracy [New York: Bobbs Merrill, 1972], pp. 37-39). 

5. The Study even repeats (p. 10) McNamara's discredited claim that "Our ships 
had absolutely no knowledge" of the 34A swift-boat operations in the area, although 
McNamara himself had already backed down when confronted with references to the 
34A operations in our ships' cable traffic. (Gulf of Tonkin . . . Hearing [1968], p. 
31: "Secretary McNamara: The Maddox did know what 34A was. ... I did not 
say they did not know anything about it.") 

6. Gravel ed., 111:184-185. This passage corresponds to the suppressed page seven 
of USG ed., IV.C.2.b. The full text is reprinted in this volume. 

7. Anthony Austin, The President's War (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1971), pp. 334- 
335; cf. Scott, pp. 58, 71-75. The same Study reveals (p. 8) that the Maddox's Task 
Group was itself the source of the disputed "Intercept Group No. 4," which McNamara 
cited as "proof" of the second incident on August 4, but which probably derives in 
fact from the first incident on August 2. 

8. Johnson's decision to bomb Hanoi was made in the isolation of the LBJ ranch 
on November 12, 1966 (a date supplied by Admiral Sharp). One day earlier, on 
November 11, he received a personal report from Ambassador Harriman on current 
prospects for negotiation. Cf. Scott, The War Conspiracy, pp. 105-106; NYT, Novem- 
ber 12, 1966, p. 8. 

9. USG ed., IV.C.l, pp. ii, 2; Gravel ed., 111:2, 17. 

10. USG ed., IV.B.5, pp. viii, 67; Gravel ed., 11:207, 275-276. Leslie Gelb, Director 
of the Pentagon Study Task Force and author of the study summaries, himself talks 
in one study summary of "optimism" (111:2); and in another of "gravity" and "de- 
terioration" (11:207). 

11. USG ed., IV.B.3, pp. 37-38; Gravel ed., 11:457-459; emphasis added. 

12. USG ed., IV.C.2.a, p. viii; Gravel ed., 111:117; cf. Pentagon Papers (New York 
Times/Bantam), p. 233. Another study on Phased Withdrawal (IV.B.4, p. 26; Gravel 
ed., 11:191) apparently quotes directly from a close paraphrase of NSAM 273(2), 
not from the document itself. Yet the second page of NSAM 273 was, as we shall see, 
a vital document in closing off Kennedy's plans for a phased withdrawal of U.S. 

13. USG ed., IV.C.2.a, p. ix; Gravel ed., Ill: 1 17. 

14. USG ed., IV.C.2.a, p. i; Gravel ed., Ill: 106. 

15. USG ed., IV.C.2.a, p. 2; Gravel ed., 111:150-151; cf. Stavins et al, pp. 93-94. 

16. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. v; Gravel ed., II: 163. 

17. NYT, November 21, 1963, pp. 1, 8; Richard P. Stebbins, The United States in 
World Affairs, 1963 (New York: Harper and Row, for the Council on Foreign Rela- 
tions, 1964), p. 193: "In a meeting at Honolulu on November 20, the principal U.S. 
authorities concerned with the war could still detect enough evidence of improvement 
to justify the repatriation of a certain number of specialized troops." Jim Bishop 
{The Day Kennedy Was Shot, New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1968, p. 107) goes 
further: "They may also have discussed how best to extricate the U.S. from Saigon; in 
fact it was a probable topic and the President may have asked the military for a 

234 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon. Papers/Vol. V 

timetable of withdrawal." Cf. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. d; Gravel ed., 11:170: "20 Nov. 63 
. . . officials agreed that the Accelerated Plan (speed-up of force withdrawal by six 
months directed by McNamara in October) should be maintained." 

18. NYT, November 25, 1963, p. 5; Washington Post, November 25, 1963, A2. See 
Appendix B. 

19. USG ed., IV.C.l, p. ii; Gravel ed., 111:2. 

20. USG ed., IV.C.l, p. 3; Gravel ed.. Ill: 18. 

21. Rusk, McNamara, Lodge, McGeorge Bundy, and apparently McCone. McCone 
was not known earlier to have been a participant in the Honolulu Conference, but he 
is so identified by USG ed., IV.B.4, p. 25 (Gravel ed., II: 190). 

22. It would appear that the only other new faces were Averell Harriman (who 
represented State in the interdepartmental "303 Committee" for covert operations) and 
George Ball. 

23. USG ed., IV.C.l, pp. 1-3; Gravel ed.. Ill: 17-18. 

24. Chester Cooper, The Lost Crusade: America in Vietnam (New York: Dodd 
Mead, 1970), p. 222. Cooper should know, for he was then a White House aide to 
McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. If 
he is right, then Pentagon study references to an NSC meeting on November 26 (USG 
ed., IV.B.4, p. 26; Gravel ed., 11:191) are wrong — naive deductions from NSAM 
273's misleading title. 

25. Lyndon Baines Johnson, The Vantage Point (New York: Holt, Rinehart & 
Winston, 1971), p. 45. Cf. USG ed., IV.C.l, pp. 46-47, which for "objective" reads 

26. Some disgruntled officials told the New York Times that as late as the Honolulu 
Conference on November 20, two days before the assassination, "there had been a 
concentration on 'something besides winning the war' " (NYT, November 25, 1963, 
p. 5). 

27. NSAM 52 of May 11, 1961, in Pentagon Papers (NYT/Bantam, p. 126). 

28. Rusk-McNamara memorandum of November 11, 1961, in Pentagon Papers 
(NYT/Bantam), p. 152; Gravel ed., 11:113. 

29. McNamara memorandum of November 8, 1961, commenting on Taylor Report 
of November 3, 1961; Pentagon Papers (NYT/Bantam), pp. 148-149; Gravel ed., 

30. Pentagon Papers (NYT/Bantam), pp. 107, 152; Gravel ed., 11:110, 113, 117. 

31. G. M. Kahin and J. W. Lewis, The United States in Vietnam (New York: Delta, 
1967), p. 129; letter in Department of State, Bulletin, January 1, 1962, p. 13; Gravel 
ed., 11:805-806. 

32. Pentagon Papers (NYT/Bantam), p. 148. 

33. McNamara-Taylor Report of October 2, 1963, in Pentagon Papers (NYT/ 
Bantam), p. 213; Gravel ed., 11:753. 

34. Gravel ed., 11:188. 

35. L. B. Johnson, The Vantage Point, p. 45. 

36. NYT, November 25, 1963, pp. 1, 5: "President Johnson reaffirmed today the 
policy objectives of his predecessor regarding South Vietnam. . . . The adoption of 
all measures should be determined by their potential contribution to this overriding 

37. In one case the disputed word "objective" is misquoted as "object" (USG ed., 
IV.C.l, p. 46; Gravel ed., 111:50). In another, it is paraphrased as "purpose" (USG ed., 
IV.B.5, p. 67; Gravel ed., 11:276). In all other studies this sentence is ignored. 

38. USG ed., IV.B.5, p. xxxiv (suppressed); Gravel ed., 11:223. Cf. USG ed., IV.B.3, 
p. 37; Gravel ed., 11:457: "that the U.S. reaffirm its commitment." 

39. USG ed., IV.C.2.a, p. viii; Gravel ed., 111:117. Cf. The inexcusable nan 
sequitur by Leslie Gelb in USG ed., IV.B.3, p. v; Gravel ed., 11:412: "If there had 
been doubt that the limited risk gamble undertaken by Eisenhower had been trans- 
formed into an unlimited commitment under Kennedy, that doubt should have been 
dispelled internally by NSAM 288's statement of objectives." NSAM 288 of 17 March 
1964 was of course a Vietnam policy statement under Lyndon Johnson, the first after 
NSAM 273, and a document which dealt specifically with the earlier noted discrepancy 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 235 

between NSAM 273's "stated objectives" and the policies it envisaged. As USG ed., 
IV.C.l points out (p. 46; Gravel ed., 111:50), "NSAM 288, being based on the official 
recognition of the fact that the situation in Vietnam was considerably worse than 
had been realized at the time of . . . NSAM 273, outlined a program that called 
for considerable enlargement of U.S. effort. ... In tacit acknowledgment that this 
greater commitment of prestige called for an enlargement of stated objectives, NSAM 
288 did indeed enlarge these objectives. . . . NSAM 288 escalated the objectives into 
a defense of all of Southeast Asia and the West Pacific." 

40. Taylor Report of November 3, 1961, in Gravel ed., 11:96, emphasis added; cf. 
USG ed., IV.C.2.b, p. 21 (not in Gravel edition). 

41. Hilsman, To Move a Nation, p. 527; quoted in USG ed., IV.C.2.a, p. 2, Gravel 

42. USG ed., IV.B.5, p. 67; Gravel ed., 11:276; cf. W. W. Rostow, "Guerrilla War- 
fare in Underdeveloped Areas," in Lt. Col. T. N. Greene ed.. The Guerrilla — and How 
to Fight Him: Selections from the Marine Corps Gazette (New York: Praeger, 1962), 
p. 59: "We are determined to help destroy this international disease, that is, guerrilla 
war designed, initiated, supplied, and led from outside an independent nation." 

43. Stavins, p. 70. 

44. Report to Special Group, in Stavins, p. 69. Roger Hilsman (p. 533, cf. p. 529) 
later revealed that, according to official Pentagon estimates, "fewer infiltrators had 
come over the trails in 1963 [7,400] than in 1962 [12,400]." 

45. Stavins, pp. 70-71. 

46. This changed attitude towards the facts must have especially affected Roger 
Hilsman, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, who had just circulated 
a contrary memorandum inside the government: "We have thus far no reason to 
believe that the Vietcong have more than a Umited need for outside resources" (Hils- 
man, p. 525). Hilsman soon resigned and made his opposing case publicly. 

47. Pentagon Papers (NYT/Bantam), p. 242; quoting SNIE 50-64 of February 12, 
1964, in USG ed., IV.C.l, p. 4. 

48. Cf. my forthcoming book, The War Conspiracy, cc. 3, 5, 6. 

49. USG ed., IV.C.2.a, p. 46; Gravel ed.. Ill: 151. 

50. Pentagon Papers (NYT/Bantam), pp. 274-275. 

51. U.S. Cong., House, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Winning the Cold War: the 
U.S. Ideological Offensive, Hearings, 88th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Feb. 20, 1964), statement 

] by Robert Manning, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs), p. 811. 

' 52. U.S., Cong., House, Committee on Appropriations, Department of Defense Ap- 
propriations for 1965, Hearings, 88th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Washington: G.P.O., 1964), 
Part IV, p. 12; cf. pp. 103-104, 117-118. 

53. Tom Wicker, JFK and LB J: The Influence of Personality Upon Politics (New 
York: William Morrow: 1968), pp. 205-206. Cf. I. F. Stone, New York Review of 
Books, March 28, 1968, p. 11; Marvin Kalb and Elie Abel, Roots of Involvement (New 
York: Norton, 1971), p. 153: "Lyndon Johnson, President less than forty-eight hours, 
had just made a major decision on Vietnam and a worrisome one." 

54. JCSM-33-62 of 13 Jan. 1962; Gravel ed., 11:663-666. 

55. Memorandum for the President of April 4, 1962; USG ed., V.B.4, pp. 461-462; 
Gravel ed., 11:671, emphasis added. 

56. USG ed., V.B.4, p. 464; Gravel ed., 11:671-672. 

57. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. i; Gravel ed., II: 160. 

58. Ibid. 

59. Arthur Sylvester, the Pentagon press spokesman, reported after a Honolulu 
Conference in May 1963 the hopes of officials that U.S. forces could be reduced "in 
one to three years" (NYT, May 8, 1963, p. 10; Cooper, The Lost Crusade, p. 208). 

60. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Appropriations, Department of Defense 
Appropriations for 1967, Hearings, 89th Cong., 2nd Sess., Washington: G.P.O., 1966, 
Part 1, p. 378. 

61. Projected levels in January 1963 from USG ed., IV.B.4, p. 10; Gravel ed., 
, 11:179, cf. p. 163 (Gelb). 

62. Cooper, The Lost Crusade, p. 207; NYT, April 27, 1963. Cooper also tells us 


236 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

that he "was sent to Vietnam in the spring [of] 1963 to search for the answer to 'Can 
we win with Diem?' The very phrasing of the question implied more anxiety about 
developments in Vietnam that official statements were currently admitting" (p. 202). 

63. State 272 of August 29, 1963 to Lodge, USG ed., V.B.4, p. 538; Gravel ed., 
11:738; emphasis added. 

64. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. 23; Gravel ed., II: 189. 

65. NYT, June 13, 1962, p. 3. 

66. Richard P. Stebbins, The United States in World Affairs 1962 (New York: 
Harper and Row, for the Council on Foreign Relations), 1963, pp. 197-200. 

67. Stebbins [1962], p. 199: "This was not the kind of ironclad arrangement on 
which the United States had been insisting in relation to such matters as disarmament, 
nuclear testing, or Berlin." 

68. Cooper, p. 190. 

69. Cooper, p. 189. 

70. Hilsman, pp. 152-153; Scott, The War Conspiracy, pp. 33-35. 

71. FBIS Daily Report, October 24, 1963, PPP3; October 28, 1963, PPP4; October 
31, 1963, PPP4. About the same time State Department officials began to refer to 
"intelligence reports" of increased North Vietnamese activity in Laos, including the 
movement of trucks; but it is not clear whether these intelligence sources were on the 
ground or in the air {NYT, October 27, 1963, p. 27; October 30, 1963, p. 1). 

72. Kenneth O'Donnell, "LBJ and the Kennedy's," Life (August 7, 1970), p. 51; 
NYT, August 3, 1970, p. 16. O'Donnell's claim is corroborated by his correct reference 
(the first I have noted in print) to the existence of an authorized plan in NSAM 263 
of October 1 1 : "The President's order to reduce the American personnel in Vietnam 
by 1,000 men before the end of 1963 was still in effect on the day that he went to 
Texas" (p. 52). 

73. Pentagon Papers (NYT/Bantam), pp. 204-205; USG ed., V.B.4, pp. 541-543; 
Gravel ed., 11:742-743, emphasis added. 

74. Hilsman, p. 501, emphasis added. 

75. USG ed., IV.B.5, p. viii; Gravel ed., 11:207. Cf. Chester Cooper, The Lost 
Crusade (New York: Dodd Mead, 1970), p. 220: "The removal of Nhu's prime Amer- 
ican contact, the curtailment of funds for Nhu's Special Forces, and, most importantly, 
the cutting off of import aid must have convinced the generals that they could proceed 
without fear of subsequent American sanctions." 

76. Johnson, The Vantage Point, p. 44. 

77. Kattenburg had been named Chairman on August 4, 1963, the same day that 
Frederick Flott assumed his duties in Saigon. IVIecklin's replacement, Barry Zorthian, 
assumed duties in Saigon on February 2, 1964. 

78. For the purposes of the April 1964 State Department Foreign Service List de 
Silva remained attached to Hong Kong, and both Richardson and Flott were still in 
Saigon. In fact de Silva was functioning as Saigon CAS station chief by February 9 
(USG ed., IV.C.l, p. 33). Trueheart did not surface in Washington until May; his 
replacement, David Nes, officially joined the Saigon Embassy on January 19, but was 
already in Saigon during the McNamara visit of mid-December 1963 (USG ed., IV.C.8 
[alias IV.C.l 1], p. 59; (Gravel ed., 111:494). 

79. USG ed., IV,B.5, p. 67. 

80. Franz Schurmann, Peter Dale Scott, Reginald Zelnik, The Politics of Escalation 
(New York: Fawcett, 1966), p. 26. 

81. USG ed., IV.C.l, p. 35; Gravel ed., 111:37; Stern (January 1970). 

82. Lyndon Baines Johnson, The Vantage Point, p. 61. 

83. Ralph Stavins et al., Washington Plans an Aggressive War, p. 81. 

84. A White House message on September 17 had authorized Lodge to hold up 
any aid program if this would give him useful leverage in dealing with Diem (CAP 
Message 63516; USG ed., V.B.4, II, p. 545; Gravel ed., 11:743). 

85. Public Papers of the Presidents, John F. Kennedy: 1963 (Washington: G.P.O., 
1964), pp. 759-760; Gravel ed., 11:188. 

86. USG ed., V.B.4, Book II, pp. 555, 573; Gravel ed., 11:766; emphasis added. 

87. Loc. cit., p. 555. 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 237 

88. Loc. cit., p. 578; cf. IV.B.4, p. d. 

89. Public Papers, p. 828. 

90. Press Conference of November 14, 1963; Public Papers, pp. 846, 852. 

91. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. 24; Johnson, The Vantage Point, p. 62; NYT, November 21, 
1963, p. 8; Weintal and Bartlett, p. 71. 

92. USG ed., IV.B.4, pp. a, e; Gravel ed., II: 166, 171. 

93. William Manchester, The Death of a President: November 20-25, 1963 (New 
York: Harper and Row, 1967), pp. 101, 158. 

94. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. 29; cf. pp. 14-16; cf. Gravel ed., 11:180-192. Another 
study (USG ed., IV.C.l, p. 15) quotes different figures, but confirms that a reduction 
in the Fiscal '65 support level was agreed to at Honolulu. 

95. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. 23. 

96. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. d; Gravel ed., 11:170. The text of the same study cor- 
roborates this very unclearly (IV.B.4, p. 25; 11:190), but the text is strangely self- 
contradictory at this point and may even have been editorially tampered with. In 
comparing Honolulu to NSAM 273, the Study assures us of total continuity: "Uni- 
versally operative was a desire to avoid change of any kind during the critical inter- 
regnum period." Yet the same Study gives us at least one clear indication of change. 
McNamara on November 20 "made it clear that he thought the proposed CINCPAC 
MAP [Military Assistance Program] could be cut back" (p. 25; 11:190); yet Mc- 
Namara on November 23, in a written memorandum to the new President, "said 
that ... the U.S. must be prepared to raise planned MAP levels" (p. 26; 11:191; 
the Chronology adds that "funding well above current MAP plans was envisaged"). 
The study itself, very circumspectly, calls this "a hint that something might be differ- 
ent," only ten lines after speaking of the "universally operative . . . desire to avoid 
change of any kind." 

What is most striking is that this Study of Phased Withdrawal makes no reference 
whatsoever to NSAM 273(6), which emphasized that "both military and economic 
programs . . . should be maintained at levels as high as those in the time of the 
Diem regime" (USG ed., IV.C.l, p. 3; Gravel ed., 111:18). Yet the Study refers to 
McNamara's memorandum of November 23, which apparently inspired this directive. 
Mr, Gelb's summary chooses to skip from October 2 to December 21, and is silent 
about the Accelerated Withdrawal Plan. 

97. NYT, November 21, 1963, p. 8, emphasis added. Cf. USG ed., IV.B.5, p. 67: 
"An uninformative press release . . . pointedly reiterated the plan to withdraw 1,000 
U.S. troops." Inasmuch as this was the first formal revelation of the plan the press 
release does not deserve to be called "uninformative." I have been unable to locate 
anywhere the text of the press release. 

98. Pentagon Study IV.C.l, p. 2; Gravel ed., 111:18, in Appendix A. Cf. USG ed., 
IV.C.9.a, p. 2; Gravel ed., 11:304, in Appendix C. 

99. USG ed., IV.B.3, p. 37; IV.C.l, p. ii. 

100. Johnson, p. 43; cf. p. 22: "South Vietnam gave me real cause for concern." 
Chester Cooper {The Lost Crusade, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1970) also writes of the 
"growing concern" and "the worries that were subsumed" in this memorandum; cf. 
I. F. Stone, New York Review of Books, March 28, 1968, p. 11. 

101. Johnson writes that Lodge "had flown to Washington a few days earlier for 
scheduled conferences with President Kennedy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and 
other administration officials" (p. 43). But Rusk, if he had not been turned back by 
the assassination, would have been in Japan. 

102. Johnson, p. 16. 

103. Johnson, p. 43. 

104. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. 26; NYT, November 24, 1963, p. 7: "The only word over- 
heard was 'billions,' spoken by McNamara." 

105. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. d; Gravel ed., 11:170. A page in another Pentagon study, 
suppressed from the Government volumes but preserved in the Gravel edition, claims, 
perhaps mistakenly, that Lodge first met with the President in Washington on Friday, 
November 22, the day of the assassination itself. Gravel ed., 11:223 (suppressed page 
following USG ed., IV.B.5, p. xxxiii); cf. IV,B,5, p, 67. 

238 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/VoL V 

106. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. 23; Gravel ed., 11:189. ! 

107. A New York Times editorial of October 7, 1963 (p. 30), observed that the ' 
"disengagement" deadline of 1965 was "a warning to the Diem-Nhu regime"; and added i 
that de Gaulle's neutralization proposal "should not be excluded from the Administra- i 
tion's current reappraisal." \ 

108. USG ed., IV.B.3, p. 37. 

109. USG ed., IV.B.4, pp. d, 23; NYT, October 4, 1963, p. 2, October 6, 1963, p. 1. j 

110. NYT, October 8, 1963, p. 5; Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days \ 
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), p. 1016. President Kennedy, if he had lived, would [ 
have visited Asia in the same month; this was one reason for the advance trip of so { 
many Cabinet members to Japan in November. I 

111. Stebbins, pp. 193-194. ' 

112. USGed., VI.A.l,p. 1. 

113. NYT, 9 March 1965, p. 4; cited in Franz Schurmann, Peter Dale Scott, 
Reginald Zelnik, The Politics of Escalation in Vietnam (New York: Fawcett, 1966), 

p. 28. i 

1 14. Schurmann, Scott, and Zelnik, pp. 28-29. 

115. Dean Rusk explicitly rejected the French proposal at his Press Conference of , 
November 8, 1963: "To negotiate on far-reaching changes in South Viet-Nam without 
far-reaching changes in North Viet-Nam seems to be not in the cards." U.S. Department j 
Of State Bulletin, 25 November 1963, p. 811. 

116. William Attwood, The Reds and the Blacks (New York: Harper and Row, | 
1967), p. 144. There are unconfirmed rumors that in late 1963 Kennedy sent former ' 
Ambassador Galbraith for similar private exploratory talks with the mainland Chinese \ 
in Nepal. This action would make sense in the light of both the President's Vietnam j 
initiative and his decision to have Roger Hilsman prepare his important address of 
December 13, 1963, to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, which hinted sig- ; 
nificantly at a new era of improved U.S. -Chinese relations. j 

117. A collation of the McNamara-Taylor Report of October 2 with the White i 
House announcement of the same day shows that although the 1963 withdrawal an- I 
nouncement was attributed to McNamara and Taylor and recommended by them for 
"the very near future," it did not form part of the policy announcement they had > 
proposed (Gravel ed., 11:188, 752-754). Cf. Weintal and Bartlett, p. 207. ] 

118. NYT, September 15, 1963, p. 1. ; 

1 19. U.S. News and World Report, December 2, 1963, p. 50. j 

120. NYT, August 4, 1963, p. 1. j 

121. NYT, October 20, 1963, p. 66. j 

122. Aviation Week, November 11, 1963, p. 31; cf. November 18, p. 25. 

123. NYT, November 19, 1963, p. 11. 

124. Business Week, November 23, 1963, p. 41. Aviation Week took the speech 

to mean merely that "the defense budget will level off" (November 25, 1963, p. 29), yet j 

was obviously concerned about "these Soviet-engineered cold war thaws" (January 6, ; 

1964, p. 21). All these professional analysts agreed that, with the imminent completion i 
of the original Kennedy-McNamara five-year program of defense spending on a new 
missile-oriented defense system, the U.S. defense budget was now at a critical turning 

point: "Most heavy spending for major strategic weapons such as Polaris missiles, and j 

big bombs, has been completed. No new costly weapons systems are contemplated." ! 

(NYT, January 6, 1964, p. 55.) \ 

125. NYT, January 17, 1966, p. 117. | 

126. U.S. Department of Defense, Military Functions and Military Assistance Pro- \ 
gram: Monthly Report of Status of Funds by Functional Title; FAD 470 (Washing- j 
ton: Department of Defense, 1964), p. 6. 1 

127. USG ed., IV.B.4, pp. v, 30; Gravel ed., II: 163, 191. \ 

128. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. e; Gravel ed., II: 171. ; 

129. USG ed., IV.C.9.a, p. 5; Gravel ed., 11:306. USG ed., IV.B.4 (p. 30) claims | 
that the authorized ceiling projected for this date under Kennedy was 15,732, a ceiling 
raised under Johnson to 15,894 (Gravel ed., II: 192). 

130. USG ed., IV.B.4 claims an October 1963 high of 16,732; but the same study 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 239 

makes it clear elsewhere that this was a planning or projected figure, not an actual one 
(USG ed., IV.B.4, p. c, p. 30; Gravel ed., 11:191, cf. 183). Stavins (p. 83) claims that 
under Kennedy the actual figure "never exceeded 16,000." 

131. U.S. Cong., House, Committee on Appropriations, Department of Defense Ap- 
propriations for 1967, Hearings, 89th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Washington: G.P.O., 1966) 
Part I, p. 378. 

132. U.S. Cong., Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Gulf of Tonkin, 1964 
Incidents, Part Two, Supplement, Documents, 90th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Washington: 
G.P.O., 1968), p. 2. None of these figures supports McNamara's informal estimate in 
February 1964 that the figure was then not 16,000 but "15,500, approximately"; U.S. 
Cong., House, Committee on Appropriations, Department of Defense Appropriations 
for 1965, Hearings, 88th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Washington: G.P.O., 1964), Part IV., p. 98. 

133. USG ed., IV.C.2.a, p. viii. 

134. NSAM 57 of 1961, in Gravel ed., n:683. 

135. David Wise and Thomas B. Ross, The Invisible Government (New York: 
Bantam, 1964), pp. 99-100. 

136. William Henderson, "Some Reflections on United States Policy in Southeast 
Asia," in William Henderson, ed., Southeast Asia: Problems of United States Policy 
(Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1963), p. 263; cf. pp. 253-254: "We shall ultimately 
fail to secure the basic objectives of policy in Southeast Asia until our commitment to 
the region becomes unlimited, which it has not been up till now. This does not mean 
simply that we must be prepared to fight for Southeast Asia, if necessary, although it 
certainly means that at a minimum. Beyond this is involved a much greater commitment 
of our resources. . . ." 

137. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. 12. 

138. USG ed., IV.B.4, pp. 25, d. 

139. Gravel ed., 111:141; Stavins, p. 93. 

140. USG ed., V.B.4, p. 525; Gravel ed., 11:726. 

141. Robert S. Allen and Paul Scott, "Diem's War Not Limited Enough," Peoria 
Journal-Star, September 18, 1963, reprinted in Congressional Record, October 1, 1963, 
p. A6155: "Since Diem — under a plan prepared by his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu — began 
sending guerrillas into North Vietnam in June, powerful forces within the administra- 
tion have clamored for the President to curb the strong anti-Communist leader. . . . 
General Paul D. Harkins, head of the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Saigon, 
who favors the initiative by Diem's forces, violently disagreed . . . but President Ken- 
nedy accepted the diplomatic rather than the military view." Cf. Radio Hanoi, FBIS 
Daily Report, October 22, 1963, JJJ13; April 8, 1964, JJJ4. 

142. Allen and Scott, loc cit.: "Diem also notified the White House that he was open- 
ing talks with a representative of Chiang Kai-shek on his offer to send Chinese Nation- 
alist troops to South Vietnam from Formosa for both training and combat purposes. 
This ... so infuriated President Kennedy that he authorized an undercover effort to 
curb control of military operations of the South Vietnam President by ousting Nhu . . . 
and to organize a military junta to run the war"; Hanoi Radio, November 10, 1963 
(FBIS Daily Report, November 14, 1963, JJJ2): "The 47 U.S.-Chiang commandos 
captured in Hai Ninh declared that before intruding into the DRV to seek their way 
into China, they had been sent to South Vietnam and received assistance from the Ngo 
Dinh Diem authorities." Cf. USG ed., IV.C.9.b, p. vii (censored); Gravel ed., 11:289- 
290: "GVN taste for foreign adventure showed up in small, irritating ways. ... In 
1967, we discovered that GVN had brought in Chinese Nationalists disguised as Nungs, 
to engage in operations in Laos." Hilsman (p. 461) relates that in January 1963 Nhu 
discussed with him "a strategy to defeat world Communism for once and for all — by 
having the United States lure Communist China into a war in Laos, which was 'an ideal 
theater and battleground.' " Bernard Fall confirmed that in Washington, also, one fac- 
tion believed "that the Vietnam affair could be transformed into a 'golden opportunity' 
to 'solve' the Red Chinese problem as well" {Vietnam Witness 1953-1966 [New York: 
Praeger, 1966] p. 103; cf. Hilsman, p. 311; Scott, The War Conspiracy, pp. 21-23, 208). 

143. D. Gareth Porter, in Nina S. Adams and Alfred W. McCoy, eds., Laos: War 
and Revolution (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), p. 198. An Air America plane 

240 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/ Vol. V \ 

shot down in September 1963 carried an American pilot along with both Thai and j 
KMT troops, like so many other Air America planes in this period. The political | 
assassinations of April 1963, which led to a resumption of fighting, have been frequently | 
attributed to a CIA-trained assassination team recruited by Vientiane Security Chief : 
Siho Lamphoutacoul, who was half Chinese (Scott, The War Conspiracy, p. 36). After \ 
Siho's coup of April 19, 1964, which ended Laotian neutralism and led rapidly to the i 
U.S. air war, the New York Times noted of Siho that "In 1963 he attended the general j 
staff training school in Taiwan and came under the influence of the son of Generalissimo i 
Chiang Kai-shek, General Chiang Ching-kuo, who had learned secret police methods in j 
Moscow and was the director of the Chinese Nationalist security services" (NYT, j 
April 27, 1964, p. 4). 

144. NYT, November 20, 1963, p. 1: The two prisoners "said they had conducted | 
activities against the Cambodian Government in a fortified hamlet in neighboring South I 
Vietnam under control of U.S. military advisers. They said Radio Free Cambodia trans- [ 
mitters had been set up in such villages. One prisoner said he had been supplied with j 
a transmitter by U.S. officials." For U.S. corroboration of CIA involvement in Khmer \ 
Serei operations, cf. Scott, The War Conspiracy, pp. 158-159. \ 

145. A New York Times editorial (October 6, 1963, IV, 8), noting "long- voiced I 
charges that our intelligence organization too often tends to 'make' policy," added that j 
"there is an inevitable tendency for some of its personnel to assume the functions of 
kingmakers," in answer to its question "Is the Central Intelligence Agency a state 
within a state?" Cf. Washington Daily News, October 2, 1963, reprinted in Congres- i 
sional Record, October 1963, p. 18602: "If the United States ever experiences a 'Seven | 
Days in May' it will come from the CIA, and not the Pentagon, one U.S. official com- \ 
mented caustically. . . . People . . . are beginning to fear the CIA is becoming a i 
third force, coequal with President Diem's regime and the U.S. government and answer- 
able to neither." 

146. Gravel ed., 111:141. 

147. USG ed., IV.B.4, p. 25; Gravel ed.. Ill: 190. 

148. Washington Post, November 21, 1963, A19; San Francisco Chronicle, Novem- 
ber 21, 1963, p. 13; emphasis added. 

149. Stavins et al., pp. 93-94; cf. USG ed., IV.C.2.a, p. viii: "NSAM 273 Authorized 
planning for specific covert operations, graduated in intensity, against the DRV." 

150. Pentagon Papers (NYT/Bantam), p. 254 (summary by Neil Sheehan), em- 
phasis added; cf. USG ed., IV.C.2.a, p. 36. 

151. Pentagon Papers (NYT/Bantam), pp. 331-332; cf. NSG ed., IV.C.2(c), p. 8. 
A similar story of good intelligence neglected is told by General Lansdale's friend and 
admirer, Robert Shaplen, in The Lost Revolution (New York: Harper, 1966, e.g., pp. 
393-394), a work frequently cited by the Pentagon study. 

152. Edward Weintal and Charles Bartlett, p. 72. 

153. Pentagon Papers (NYT/Bantam), p. 441. 


NSAM 273 of November 26, 1963: a partial reconstruction of the text 

IV.C.l, pp. 46-47; = 
Or. 111:50; Johnson, 

p. 45 TO: [All the senior officers of the government respon- 

sible for foreign affairs and military policy] 

^object, IV.C.l 1. It remains the central objective^ of the United States 

in South Vietnam to assist the people and Government 
of that country to win their contest against the externally 
directed and supported communist conspiracy. The test 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 241 

^overriding objective, 
NYT, Nov. 25, 1963, 
p. 5 

IV.C.l, p. 2; =Gr. 
111:18. IV.B.3, p. 37; 
= Gr. 11:276 
^objectives, IV.B.2, p. 
26; IV.B.5, p. 67. ob- 
jective, IV.B.3, p. 37 

IV.C.l, p. 3; =Gr. 

IV.C.l, p. 2; = 
111:18; Johnson, 
45; IV.B.5, p. 67 


IV.C.l, p. 3; 
111:18; IV.B.5, 

= Gt. 
p. 67 

IV.B.5, p. 67; = Or. 

IV.C.l, p. 2; =Gr. 

Cooper, p. 224 

IV.B.3, p. 37; = Gr. 

IV.C.2.a, p. viii; = 
Gr. 111:117 

of all U.S. decisions and actions in this area should be 
the effectiveness of their contribution to this purpose.^ 

[2.] The objectives'^ of the United States with respect to 
the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel remains as 
stated in the White House statement of October 2, 1963. 

3. It is a major interest of the United States government 
that the present provisional government of South Viet- 
nam should be assisted in consolidating itself in holding 
and developing increased public support . . . [NYT: 
for programs directed toward winning the war]. 

[4.] The President expects that all senior officers of the 
government will move energetically to insure the full 
unity of support for established U.S. policy in South 
Vietnam. Both in Washington and in the field, it is essen- 
tial that the government be unified. It is of particular 
importance that express or implied criticism of officers 
of other branches be assiduously avoided in all contacts 
with the Vietnamese government and with the press. 

5. We should concentrate our efforts, and insofar as pos- 
sible we should persuade the government of South Viet- 
nam to concentrate its effort, on the critical situation in 
the Mekong Delta. This concentration should include 
not only military but economic, social, educational and 
informational effort. We should seek to turn the tide not 
only of battle but of belief, and we should seek to in- 
crease not only the controlled hamlets but the produc- 
tivity of this area, especially where the proceeds can be 
held for the advantage of anti-Communist forces. 

[6.] [Economic and military aid to the new regime should 
be maintained at the same levels as during Diem's rule.] 
[6.] [Both military and economic programs, it was em- 
phasized, should be maintained at levels as high as those 
in the time of the Diem regime.] 

[Johnson . . . stressed that all military and economic 
programs were to be kept at the levels maintained dur- 
ing the Diem regime.] 

[U.S. assistance programs should be maintained at levels 
at least equal to those under the Diem government so 
that the new GVN would not be tempted to regard the 
U.S. as seeking to disengage.] 

[7?] [NSAM 273 Authorized planning for specific covert 
operations, graduated in intensity, against the DRV.] 

242 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/ Vol. V 

Stavins, pp. 94-95 
Stavins, p. 93; = Gr. 
111:141; cf. IV.C.2.a, 
p. 2 

IV.B.5, p. xxxiv (sup- 
pressed); =: Gr. II: 

IV.B.5, p. 67; = Gr. 

Gr. 111:141 

IV.B.3, p. 37; = Gr. 

IV.B.5, p. 67; = Gr. 
11:276; = NYT/Ban- 
tam, p. 233 

Johnson, p. 45 

[NSAM 273 authorized Krulak to form a committee and 
develop a coherent program of covert activities to be 
conducted during 1964, while the rest of the national 
security apparatus explored the feasibility of initiating a 
wider war against the North. . . . This NSAM pro- 
vided that] . . . planning should include different levels 
of possible increased activity, and in each instance there 
should be estimates of such factors as: 

a. Resulting damage to NVN; 

b. The plausibility of denial; 

c. Possible NVN retaliation; 

d. Other international reaction. 

[Clandestine operations against the North and into Laos 
are authorized.] 

[And in conclusion, plans were requested for clandestine 
operations by the GVN against the North and also for 
operations up to 50 kilometers into Laos.] 

[8.] [The directive also called for a plan, to be submitted 
for approval, for military operations] "up to a line up to 
50 km. inside Laos, together with political plans for 
minimizing the international hazards of such an enter- 
prise" (NSAM 273). 

[Military operations should be initiated, under close 
political control, up to within fifty kilometers inside of 

[9?] [As a justification for such measures, State was di- 
rected to develop a strong, documented case] "to demon- 
strate to the world the degree to which the Viet Cong is 
controlled, sustained, and supplied from Hanoi, through 
Laos and other channels." 

[The NSAM also assigned various specific actions to the 
appropriate department or agency of government.] 


Clues to the existence on November 24, 1963, of a White House paraphrase of 
NSAM 273 (paragraphs 1 to 4) for press purposes. i 

Both the New York Times'^ and Washington Post,^ referring in customary li 

terms to a White House source or sources, printed paraphrases of NSAM 273's | 

first (i.e., more innocuous and misleading) page, and these paraphrases share ; 

certain divergences from the official text. These shared divergences suggest the f 

existence of an intermediary written archetype, a background paper for the use j 

of certain preferred correspondents. (The Times paraphrase was printed in a \ 

1. NYT, November 25, 1963, p. 5. 

2. Washington Post, November 25, 1963, A2. 

Vietnamization and the Drama of the Pentagon Papers 243 

story by E. W. Kenworthy, who later helped write and edit the New York Times/ 
Bantam Pentagon Papers.) 

Sample Divergences: 

NSAM 27 3 {I ) It remains the central objective of the United States 
Washington Post central point of United States policy remains 
New York Times central point of United States policy remains 

NSAM 273(1) contribution to this purpose 

Washington Post directed toward that objective 

New York Times contribution to this overriding objective 

NSAM 273(4) senior officers . . . move ... to insure the full unity of 

Washington Post all Government agencies . . . complete unity of purpose 

New York Times All agencies . . . full unity of purpose 

The press reports of this paraphrase suggest that the closing words of NSAM 
273(3), as quoted in USG ed., IV.C.3 (p. 3), may have been suppressed; and 
that the increased "public support" referred to was not in fact political but mili- 

NYT, November 25, 1963, p. 5: "development of public support for pro- 
grams directed toward winning the war." 

San Francisco Chronicle (AP and UPI), November 25, 1963, p. 5: "to de- 
velop public support for its policies aimed at winning the war against the 
Communist Viet Cong." 

Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1963, p. 6: "development of programs to 
oppose the Viet Cong." 

AP, as quoted by Peking Radio, November 25, 1963 (FBIS Daily Report, 
November 26, 1963, BBB4) : "consolidate its position and win public sup- 
port for the policy mapped out by it, in order to win the war against the 
Vietnamese Communists." 

NSAM 273(3), as quoted in USG ed., IV.C.l, p. 3: "the present provisional 
government of South Vietnam should be assisted in consolidating itself in 
holding and developing increased public support." 



S "S ^ 

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14. The Pentagon Papers and the United States 
Involvement in Laos 

by Walt Haney 


We incur hundreds of thousands of U.S. casualties [in Indochina] because 
we are opposed to a closed society. We say we are an open society, and the 
enemy is a closed society. 

Accepting that premise, it would appear logical for them not to tell their , 
people; but it is sort of a twist on our basic philosophy about the importance 
of containing Communism. Here we are telling Americans they must fight 
and die to maintain an open society, but not telling our people what we are j 
doing. That would seem the characteristic of a closed society. We are fighting : 
a big war in Laos, even if we do not have ground troops there. Testimony 
for 3 days has been to that effect, yet we are still trying to hide it not only 
from the people but also from the Congress. 

— Senator Stuart Symington^ 

Many times in years past, the war in Laos has been called the "forgotten war." , 
Forgotten because the U.S. government has not been, as Senator Symington puts 
it, "telling our people what we are doing." Indeed, because of U.S. government ; 
secrecy, the war in Laos has been so completely forgotten that William Fulbright, j 
the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, could testify in , 
October 1969 that he "had no idea we had a full-scale war going on" in Laos.^ 
Now, after publication of the Pentagon Papers in three different versions, we have 
further evidence of how much Laos has been forgotten, not only by the public i 
but by U.S. policymakers as well. For most of the last twenty years, excepting the 
crises of 1960 through 1963, Laos has been for the United States little more than 
a sideshow to the conflict in Vietnam. 

Though the United States has spent billions of dollars in the Kingdom of Laos, : 
top U.S. officials in Washington have only rarely given their attention to this i 
small country and then only in times of mihtary crises, or in terms of how events : 
in Laos affect U.S. involvement in Vietnam. As one American official in Vientiane 
put it in 1960, "This is the end of nowhere. We can do anything we want here j 
because Washington doesn't seem to know it exists." ^ f 

Because the documents in the Pentagon Papers reflect largely the views of [ 
Washington, and because they focus on Vietnam, they provide insight into only ■ 
a small portion of U.S. involvement in Laos. It is the fuller account of U.S. in- 
volvement in Laos' forgotten war, both that revealed in the Pentagon Papers and , 
that omitted from them, which we will treat in this essay. j 

Copyright © 1972 by Walt Haney 

The Pentagon Papers and U.S. Involvement in Laos 249 


The course of U.S. policy was set to block further Communist expansion 
in Asia. 

—NSC 48/2 

December 30, 1949^ 

In April 1946, French troops reoccupied Vientiane and the leaders of the Lao 
independence movement, the Lao Issara, fled across the Mekong into Thailand. 
Shortly thereafter occurred what Arthur Dommen in his book Conflict in Laos 
calls "the first in a long series of contacts between the Lao Issara and Americans 
in territory outside Laos." ^ In that meeting in the spring of 1946, Prince 
Souphanouvong"^ of the Lao Issara asked OSS Major Jim Thompson for "official 
United States support for removal of the French from Laos." ^ There is no 
record, however, that the United States provided any support for the Lao inde- 
pendence movement. U.S. sentiments against the reimposition of French colonial 
rule were held in check by the fact that the strongest independence movements 
in Indochina displayd Communist leanings. And after the defeat of the Chinese 
Nationalists in 1949, and the growing conflict in Korea, U.S. ambivalence toward 
the French-sponsored colonial governments of Indochina gave way completely to 
; anti-Communist sentiments. On February 3, 1950, President Truman approved a 
memorandum from Secretary of State Dean Acheson recommending U.S. recog- 
nition of the "three legally constituted governments of Vietnam, Laos and Cam- 
bodia . . ." (Gravel ed., 1:65). On May 1, 1950 Truman approved $10 miflion 
"for urgently needed military assistance items for Indochina" (Gravel ed., 1:67). 
In December of that year, the United States concluded mutual defense agreements 
with the governments of the three French Union States of Indochina; Laos, 
Cambodia and Vietnam.^ 

One stipulation of these agreements was that all U.S. military assistance to 
! Indochina go directly to the French, who then controlled its distribution. There- 
fore, exactly how much U.S. military aid went to Laos during the period of 
French control, 1950-1954, is not precisely known, but has been estimated at 
roughly $30 million. ^ Despite the agreement to channel U.S. military assistance 
to Laos through the French, this period saw the first instance of direct U.S. 
military involvement in Laos. 

In March and April of 1953 Viet Minh troops moved into northern Laos from 
Dien Bien Phu. They advanced down the valley of the River Ou toward Luang 
Prabang. In response to this threat on the Royal Capital of Laos, the United 
States "rushed supplies to Laos and Thailand in May 1953 and provided six 
iC-119's with civilian crews for the airlift into Laos" (Gravel ed., 1:86). This 
form of involvement displayed elements which were to become familiar to U.S. 
involvement in Laos in the next twenty years; expanded involvement as a response 
to crisis, the use of civilians in military and para-military operations, and the 
reliance on air power. 

Only in 1954 after the Geneva Conference did Laos achieve true independence 
outside the umbrella of the French Union. For Laos, the Geneva agreements 
stipulated a general ceasefire, the withdrawal of Viet Minh and French Union 
jforces and the regroupment of Pathet Lao forces in Sam Neua and Phong Saly 
jorovinces pending a political settlement. Also, the agreements prohibited intro- 
lyluction of foreign military personnel and military advisers except for 1,500 

250 Gravel Edition/The Pentagon Papers/Vol. V 

French officers and men to train the Laotian armyJ It was this last stipulation 
which was to prove most troublesome for the U.S. involvement in Laos. 



Our fear of communism has been so great as to be irrational. We have 
virtually imbued it with superhuman powers. Its very nature, in our thinking, 
assures its success. We fail to see that, like other political ideologies, it can « 
only take root among a receptive population. . . . We do not consider the 
possibility that our antagonists in fact may be in better tune with the griev- 
ances of the people whose loyalty we seek to win, and thus have been able 
to promise remedies which to the latter appear realistic and just. 

—Roger M. Smithi ^ 


On October 20, 1954, barely three months after Geneva, Prince Souvanna 1 
Phouma resigned as Prime Minister of Laos. He had only just begun the difficult ! 
task of reaching a political settlement with the Pathet Lao, and the circumstances j 
surrounding his resignation have yet to be explained completely. Most accounts \ 
link the fall of Souvanna Phouma in October 1954 to the assassination of his 
Minister of Defense, Kou Voravong, in September. However, years later, in 1961, 
Souvanna Phouma attributed his fall in 1954 to foreign interference. ^ After the 
Prince's resignation, a new government was formed under Katay Don Sasorith, 
who favored closer relations with Thailand and evidently harbored reservations ' 
on the sagacity of coalition with the Pathet Lao.^ At any rate, talks with the 
Pathet Lao foundered and were broken off in April 1955. Twice more, once in 
the summer and once in the fall, talks between Katay and the Pathet Lao were 
resumed only to be broken off. During all this time the Pathet Lao resisted Royal 
Lao government attempts at reimposition of control over Sam Neua and Phong : 
Saly provinces. As former British military attache to Laos Hugh Toye recounts 
it, "The Pathet Lao argued, against the obvious intention of the Geneva Agree- \ 
ment, that the provinces were theirs until a full political settlement was reached." ^ 

General elections were held in December 1955 without Pathet Lao participa- i 
tion, but when the new assembly convened Katay found himself lacking enough 
support to continue as Prime Minister. Souvanna Phouma gathered suppor